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Cleaving: A Story of Marriage, Meat, and Obsession

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

I liked it, but it is not for everyone

Julie Powell writes her second memoir after Julie and Julia, which I had really enjoyed. I almost didn't read this one as I had seen poor reviews. But the first one had bad reviews also, and I liked that one a lot.


Julie Powell is fresh from the success of her firs...
Julie Powell writes her second memoir after Julie and Julia, which I had really enjoyed. I almost didn't read this one as I had seen poor reviews. But the first one had bad reviews also, and I liked that one a lot.


Julie Powell is fresh from the success of her first book and also her first affair. She has been seeing "D" for almost two years. Her husband is aware of the affair but they do not split up, at least not permanently. The story picks up as the affair is breaking up. Julie has become fascinated with butchery and is looking for an apprenticeship, which she eventually finds in a small butcher shop two hours out of the city. This eventually leads to travel to Argentina, Ukraine, and Tanzania to discover butchery in other cultures.


my review: I really liked this book. However, I'm not really sure why. I don't approve of infidelity, but worse is the disrespect that Julie seems to show her husband, and he in return. She is obsessed with D, texting him constantly, though aware that he husband reads her texts. He then indulges in his own affair, though more to punish her. The fact that for the most part, they stay together during this and not discussing the affair seems insane. But having never been married, perhaps I just don't understand. Julie doesn't want to divorce Eric, her husband, as she loves him and considers him more than a soul mate. They have been together since college.


I also have little tolerance for women that are obsessed with men as Julie is with D. Even after the affair ends, she continues to text him all the time, waiting for a response. I also get frustrated with people that seem to have such chaos in their lives.


I also am not a huge red meat person (though I did have more than one helping of prime rib at Christmas) and I love animals. The idea of reading about the butchering of these animals is not something that would hold appeal to me.


Yet, all that said, I liked the book. She is a great writer, maybe her honest portrayal of herself and her flaws won me over. And I guess I admired her commitment to such a difficult job as apprenticing as a butcher and her drive to really succeed. She also doesn't seem to rest on her laurels of her successful first book, barely even mentioning it.


The end was not as finished as I would have liked, but this is someone's real life, not a novel.

There are also some recipes interspersed throughout the book. Ultimately, it is the fact that she hides from nothing, whether it is her honesty with her husband about her affair, that she eats parts of meat most of us would balk at, even drinking goat's blood as part of a slaughter ritual in Tanzania, that makes me admire her or at least be able to appreciate her story.


This is not a book I would recommend to everyone, it does not have universal appeal, especially if you have a weak stomach or are a vegetarian. But it is frank, honest, and well-written.


my rating 4/5
http://bookmagic418.blogspot.com/

posted by debbook on December 26, 2009

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Most Helpful Critical Review

8 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

For Whom It May Concern.

Yes, this book is different from Julie and Julia. Yes, it is the SAME person. For those who said they didn't like it because Julie had an affair, Boo Hoo. Julie is human, everybody makes mistakes, I'm not even done reading the entire book, and I can finish it without ju...
Yes, this book is different from Julie and Julia. Yes, it is the SAME person. For those who said they didn't like it because Julie had an affair, Boo Hoo. Julie is human, everybody makes mistakes, I'm not even done reading the entire book, and I can finish it without judging her. I'm sure she had Eric's permission to write this, he would definitely NOT find out about every little detail of the affair through the book.
However, Julie's writing style isn't awesome, I don't really like that she goes through EVERY SINGLE DETAIL of cleaving, I'm sure there's a better way of getting the point across other than saying everything she sees. It gets a little repetitive and boring after reading every cut and every movement of the same animal over and over again.
Before you started reading this book, you knew it was going to be more indepth about Julie, and probably not as "fun" as Julie and Julia.
Julie goes after something she wants to do, and has to sacrifice things in order to do them, some sacrifices harder than others.
Judge the writing more than the person. It might get you somewhere.

posted by Sess-Jooner on January 21, 2010

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  • Posted January 21, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    For Whom It May Concern.

    Yes, this book is different from Julie and Julia. Yes, it is the SAME person. For those who said they didn't like it because Julie had an affair, Boo Hoo. Julie is human, everybody makes mistakes, I'm not even done reading the entire book, and I can finish it without judging her. I'm sure she had Eric's permission to write this, he would definitely NOT find out about every little detail of the affair through the book.
    However, Julie's writing style isn't awesome, I don't really like that she goes through EVERY SINGLE DETAIL of cleaving, I'm sure there's a better way of getting the point across other than saying everything she sees. It gets a little repetitive and boring after reading every cut and every movement of the same animal over and over again.
    Before you started reading this book, you knew it was going to be more indepth about Julie, and probably not as "fun" as Julie and Julia.
    Julie goes after something she wants to do, and has to sacrifice things in order to do them, some sacrifices harder than others.
    Judge the writing more than the person. It might get you somewhere.

    8 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 20, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    I was an avid Julie Powell reader until I read Cleaving.

    I found Julie's first book "Julie and Julia" very entertaining,humorous, sometimes sad, but well worth the read. I cannot say near the same for "Cleaving". The butcher details were ad nauseum. I found the public disclosure of the personal choices in the book very uncomfortable. Needless to say, I was very disappointed. I don't think they will be making a movie out of this one.

    7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 29, 2010

    Self-absorbed, narcissistic twaddle with no redeeming value.

    Nearly didn't finish this... it's up there with Nicholson Baker's "Fermata" in terms of being repulsive, but lacked Fermata's "so bad it's good" qualities. Also, this is fact where Fermata has the benefit of being fiction. This is a memoir of a completely self centered person whose main "cleaving" is not the type that she does in the butcher shop in which she apprentices, but is of the lives of those around her, without any care in the world. I found myself wondering if Ms. Powell was a clinical narcissist, and on the whole, found the whole experience rather stomach-turning. I turned page after page hoping she would "get better", but alas, she didn't...

    What's worse is that her husband wasn't portrayed as a sympathetic character, either. While I initially cared about the cuckold, I quickly came to equally dislike both he and his wife... his passive aggression and retaliatory cheating didn't make me care that his wife was running around on him, because he was no better than she was.

    Julie's managed to accomplish two things, portray herself as a selfish, immature person and portray her husband as equally asinine...

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 20, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    I was hoping it would get better...

    I loved Julie and Julia- it was such a good read, but this one, sorry. I lost sympathy for Julie almost from the start. I loved the quirky romance we were given in her first book between her and her husband Eric including the comments from her friends about what it is like to be still be with the only man you have ever been with. I'm sorry, Eric did not deserve this. The graphic description of her affair paired with graphic descriptions on how to cut meat left me wondering why I kept reading. I kept hoping it would get better. So sad. I am by no means a prude and I certainly don't judge Julie, but I don't have to read her confessions.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 1, 2010

    Why?

    I loved Julie and Julia, so I was excited when I got this one. Wow, what a difference! Julie and Julia - had to make myself stop reading so I can go to sleep. Cleaving - have to make myself read a couple of pages so I can fall asleep. I liked Julie after reading the first book - I am annoyed by her now. Butchering details don't really make a great read, and details about slaughter... Why?? All this moaning about D, and what they did and didn't do in bed - why?? I wish I stopped at Julie and Julia...

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 3, 2010

    Despicable

    I think there are a number of different issues at play here if you're looking for a review. We can look at the writing or the narrative or what the narrative describes.

    The first is the most abstract - how does Powell do as a writer. Not bad, not great. I've read better and I've read worse.

    Then the narrative. This is separate from what the narrative describes if only as an answer to the question: Would the book stand on its own if it were fiction? The structure is murky, at best. I've read better and I've read worse.

    Now on to Powell as a person and her actions as a person. After my more or less mediocre ratings on the two above criteria, this is where the book fails. Miserably and insultingly. While I have read reviews praising Powell on her honesty, since when is honesty license for utter cruelty? Ten minutes with Powell's prose describing her numerous humiliations of her husband (who she once described as "saintly") will make my point. The details of the affair are cruel enough but filling a book with them for all the world to read only compounds the harsh disrespect she obviously holds for her husband.

    Ask yourself this question whenever she describes the time she's spending with her lover - the make-out sessions with "D" while Eric slept, unknowing, in the next room or the bruises "D" left on her body after sex: How must Eric have felt when he learned about this? And how must he feel knowing everyone who owns the book can read about it?

    Honesty is one thing, but simple human compassion should have compelled her to leave the marriage or at the very least spare the rest of us this sad destructive dysfunctional story.

    Decide for yourself whether you want to reward her despicable actions by buying the book.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 3, 2010

    This book should be cleaved...

    For those fans out there of Julie and Julia, step away from this book immediately. This book will make you dislike the author, whom I truly liked after reading her first novel. This book made me at times want to throw it against a wall because of the authors own lack of self control and complete foolishness. This book takes the reader on a ride through her illicit affair on her long suffering husband, who never stands up for himself or his marriage.
    While her first novel took you on a culinary journey, this takes you on a journey to nowhere.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 26, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I liked it, but it is not for everyone

    Julie Powell writes her second memoir after Julie and Julia, which I had really enjoyed. I almost didn't read this one as I had seen poor reviews. But the first one had bad reviews also, and I liked that one a lot.


    Julie Powell is fresh from the success of her first book and also her first affair. She has been seeing "D" for almost two years. Her husband is aware of the affair but they do not split up, at least not permanently. The story picks up as the affair is breaking up. Julie has become fascinated with butchery and is looking for an apprenticeship, which she eventually finds in a small butcher shop two hours out of the city. This eventually leads to travel to Argentina, Ukraine, and Tanzania to discover butchery in other cultures.


    my review: I really liked this book. However, I'm not really sure why. I don't approve of infidelity, but worse is the disrespect that Julie seems to show her husband, and he in return. She is obsessed with D, texting him constantly, though aware that he husband reads her texts. He then indulges in his own affair, though more to punish her. The fact that for the most part, they stay together during this and not discussing the affair seems insane. But having never been married, perhaps I just don't understand. Julie doesn't want to divorce Eric, her husband, as she loves him and considers him more than a soul mate. They have been together since college.


    I also have little tolerance for women that are obsessed with men as Julie is with D. Even after the affair ends, she continues to text him all the time, waiting for a response. I also get frustrated with people that seem to have such chaos in their lives.


    I also am not a huge red meat person (though I did have more than one helping of prime rib at Christmas) and I love animals. The idea of reading about the butchering of these animals is not something that would hold appeal to me.


    Yet, all that said, I liked the book. She is a great writer, maybe her honest portrayal of herself and her flaws won me over. And I guess I admired her commitment to such a difficult job as apprenticing as a butcher and her drive to really succeed. She also doesn't seem to rest on her laurels of her successful first book, barely even mentioning it.


    The end was not as finished as I would have liked, but this is someone's real life, not a novel.

    There are also some recipes interspersed throughout the book. Ultimately, it is the fact that she hides from nothing, whether it is her honesty with her husband about her affair, that she eats parts of meat most of us would balk at, even drinking goat's blood as part of a slaughter ritual in Tanzania, that makes me admire her or at least be able to appreciate her story.


    This is not a book I would recommend to everyone, it does not have universal appeal, especially if you have a weak stomach or are a vegetarian. But it is frank, honest, and well-written.


    my rating 4/5
    http://bookmagic418.blogspot.com/

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 18, 2009

    A Total Disappointment

    Having thoroughly enjoyed the movie, I eagerly bought this book (a signed copy by the author)and the DVD as a combined Christmas gift for a young relative who is a wonderful cook. After noticing the pervasive foul language in a few passages, and being a retired teacher, I decided that I should read the book before giving it as a gift to someone I cared about. The writing is terrible, the language is coarse, and the entire premise of the book itself--how to commit adultery and enjoy it--was detestable. Also, the technical advice about butchering is feeble at best. Do not waste your money. Barnes and Noble offers thousands of books more worthy of your time and effort.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 19, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Used to love Julie Powell

    I couldn't even finish the book. I don't want to hear about how you f^**^d up your love life. I bought the book to continue to be inspired like when I read Julie and Julia.

    3 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 6, 2010

    SHe should fire her editor and publisher

    Maybe she did not know, but her "People" should have. This book was honest, but ugly. It was real, but really just painful. I don't judge her story, just the story telling and avenue to tell it.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 30, 2010

    I kept hoping it would get better... but it got worse.

    Wow - what a sad attempt. I found Ms. Powell to be very sad and somewhat depressing. I think her educational journey was interesting and perhaps even intreguing, but her personal life just detracted from what the reader could have gotten out her experiences. I would not recommend. Two thumbs down - for sure!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 22, 2010

    Terrible

    This was the hardest read in a very long time... terrible and very disappointing... not only in content, but in story line.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 2, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Cautionary Tale of Answered Prayers

    "Be careful what you wish for" is the saying that reverberated through my head while reading Julie Powell's new memoir Cleaving. After the huge success of her break through memoir Julie and Julia, author Powell is contacted by an old flame. This leads to an affair that nearly destroys Powell's marriage as well as her self worth. At the same time as her personal soap opera, Powell embarks on an apprenticeship, as background for Cleaving, at Fleisher's butcher shop.

    The memoir switches between detailed depictions of butchery along Powell's romantic travails. Periodically recipes are included. While this seems disjointed it actually works fairly well. Witness, this passage:

    A liver is unlike any other organ . . . . A liver is a mystery. It's a filter. The liver records experience, the indulgences and wrong turns; it contains within it a constantly updated state-of-the union address. But it keeps what it knows a secret. Encoded. It cleans up after itself, too, will after a time purge files, dispensing unnecessary information, what's been relegated to the past, keeping what's needed. There are even some hopeful, possibly deluded souls who believe a cirrhotic liver can heal itself, with time, and with gentleness.

    Cleaving was a difficult read for me. One the one hand, I admired Powell's candor about her obsession with her ex lover. Anyone who has ever been on the wrong side of a love turned sour can probably relate to some of the feelings and/or actions that Powell confesses to. On the other hand, I sometimes felt that reading it was the literary equivalent of pawing through Powell's lingerie drawer (even with the author's invitation and the written consents of her husband Eric and her ex D). In addition, while Powell is a gifted writer, I generally skimmed over many of the detailed butchery passages. In sum, this memoir was a mixed bag for me.

    Cleaving is a cautionary tale of the pitfalls of answered prayers.


    (Review based on a book borrowed from the library.)

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 27, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Worst book I have read this year

    Her first book was hilarious. She should have left well enough alone. This book was not only disappointing, but left me disliking the author as a person.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 20, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    love, butchery, and self-discovery... in no particular order

    I was lucky enough to score an advanced copy of Cleaving: A Story of Marriage, Meat, and Obsession. I have been hand-selling Julie and Julia for several years now (long before Meryl Streep put it back on the bestseller list!), and I am thrilled to have a new Julie Powell book to put into my customers' hands. Thankfully, Powell does not disappoint, offering up her signature blend of self-deprecation, zealotry, and a laugh-out-loud observatory style, that allows her to share moments most of us would be too embarrassed to reveal to our closest friends. Powell's smattering of recipes throughout are well placed, and although I have yet to follow any of her directions exactly (strangely, my husband has yet to offer me a foot rub while Eric's Beef Stew bubbles in the oven...), I have turned out several tasty dishes. Ultimately, this book proves what I had hoped for all along - Julie Powell is no one-hit wonder.

    2 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 1, 2010

    Expect it to be different from her first book!

    A book should be judged by the quality of the writing, not on what the author chooses to share about her own life. Other authors have written about affairs and not been slammed in the reviews like what happened to Julie. If Tiger Woods wrote a book, it would likely become a best seller. Should Julie be judged so much more harshly just because she is a women who likes to cook and does not fit any traditional stereotypes about what a wife should be like? Her husband also chose to have an affair when he could have made other choices like divorcing her. Judge her by her writing not on your personal opinions of her.

    1 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 30, 2012

    Loved it

    Wish she would have spent more time talking about her world travels.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 21, 2012

    Not Nearly As Enjoyable as Julie & Julia

    Loved Julie & Julia, so despite the poor reviews on this book, I decided to give it a shot. I finished the book in just a couple of days, so yes, to some degree, it was compelling. I am, however, horrified by the blatant details involving her infidelity. I found myself sad after finishing the book. Sad for her, sad for the fact that she obviously has some serious issues that she hasn't worked through, and more than anything, sad for her husband. Not only has he been cheated on, but half the free world now knows about it, and in shocking detail. Also, the constant droning about butchering meat was a little much. There were times that I felt like I was reading a "how to" guide. Can't say that I would recommend this one. It left a bad taste.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 21, 2011

    I liked it

    I liked the writing style and the unappologetic tone. People who are looking for a "lived happily ever after" won't be feel fulfilled by the book. Not all peoples lives are easily resolved or tucked in for all involved. I appreciate the unvarnish story. Life is complicated and untidy for many people. I thought this was refreshing.

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