Perfection: A Memoir of Betrayal and Renewal

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Overview

Julie Metz's life changes forever on one ordinary January afternoon when her husband, Henry, collapses on the kitchen floor and dies in her arms. Suddenly, this mother of a six-year-old is the young widow in a bucolic small town. And this is only the beginning. Seven months after Henry's death, just when Julie thinks she is emerging from the worst of it, comes the rest of it: She discovers that what had appeared to be the reality of her marriage was but a half-truth. Henry had hidden another life from her.

"He ...

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Perfection: A Memoir of Betrayal and Renewal

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Overview

Julie Metz's life changes forever on one ordinary January afternoon when her husband, Henry, collapses on the kitchen floor and dies in her arms. Suddenly, this mother of a six-year-old is the young widow in a bucolic small town. And this is only the beginning. Seven months after Henry's death, just when Julie thinks she is emerging from the worst of it, comes the rest of it: She discovers that what had appeared to be the reality of her marriage was but a half-truth. Henry had hidden another life from her.

"He loved you so much." That's what everyone keeps telling her. It's true that he loved Julie and their six-year-old daughter ebulliently and devotedly, but as she starts to pick up the pieces and rebuild her life without Henry in it, she learns that Henry had been unfaithful throughout their twelve years of marriage. The most damaging affair was ongoing--a tumultuous relationship that ended only with Henry's death.

For Julie, the only thing to do was to get at the real truth--to strip away the veneer of "perfection" that was her life and confront each of the women beneath the veneer. Perfection is the story of Julie Metz's journey through chaos and transformation as she creates a different life for herself and her young daughter. It is the story of coming to terms with painful truths, of rebuilding both a life and an identity after betrayal and widowhood. It is a story of rebirth and happiness--if not perfection.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
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Life was difficult enough when Metz's husband suddenly slumped onto the kitchen floor, dead of a pulmonary embolism, leaving her with a six-year-old daughter to raise on her own. But what happens when she finds out, soon afterward, that her contented marriage was just an illusion -- and that her husband had carried on numerous affairs, including a long-term tryst with one of her closest friends?

Metz is still reeling from her husband's sudden death when hints begin to surface about his double life. Friends and family members who first tried to protect her begin to admit what they know. Soon she is poring over her husband's old emails, reading about his passionate longings for other women and his disappointment with her. And all the time, she hadn't suspected a thing. Or had she?

Metz's willingness to probe her own psyche is what makes this book so powerful and so different from other tell-alls. She methodically contacts the women in her husband's past and questions them in an effort to reconstruct the true nature of her marriage and to better understand how she contributed to its failings. Is a perfect marriage possible? And if you think you have a perfect marriage, are you living a lie? Metz's choice of title is startling and provocative, like the rest of this riveting memoir. (Fall 2009 Selection)
Janet Maslin
[Ms. Metz] brings refreshing candor to a startling, painful tale.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

As recounted in this dark and affecting memoir, Metz's discovery of her husband's long trail of philandering well after he died reveals the state of willful ignorance and comfortable self-deception that reigned in her marriage. At their home in the northern suburbs of New York City on June 8, 2003, Henry, her husband of 13 years, suffered sudden cardiac arrest, leaving the author, a 44-year-old graphic artist, widowed and the sole caretaker of their six-year-old daughter, Liza. Initially unable to face the details surrounding his death, she left to her friends the task of cleaning out her dead husband's office, though those same well-meaning people hid from her the truth they gleaned from Henry's computer files and correspondence: he had been enjoying a two-year affair with another woman in their town, as well as numerous other dalliances. Metz, after the shock of Henry's death, found solace in shopping and flirting with a much younger artist, Tomas, who was also friendly with Henry; once Tomas intimated that Henry had another life, the author began digging, calling and e-mailing every woman she learned had had a relationship with her husband, obsessed with finding the truth. Metz's road to emotional honesty proves cautionary and trying. (June)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Reviews
Upon discovering that her late husband cheated on her with multiple women, the author began researching his affairs. In early 2003, graphic designer and freelance writer Metz heard a crash in her suburban New York house. It was her husband Henry, collapsing from a pulmonary embolism. In the first months following his death, the author carried on raising their six-year-old daughter, Liza, while grieving and starting a relationship with Tomas, a friend of the couple. Then Metz found out about her late husband's adultery, setting her off on a witch hunt to find the women he'd been with. Searching for clues, she combed through illicit e-mails and Henry's journal (she quotes passages from each), then contacted his former lovers-scattered across the continent, all of them his type of "little brunettes"-to ask personal questions and furiously curse them out. The affair most upsetting to her was with Cathy, a local friend and mother of Liza's good friend. Metz repeatedly called Cathy names, reported the affair to Cathy's husband and broke up the daughters' friendship before concluding that the town was too small for both of them. The irony that the author fails to acknowledge as she describes her efforts to uproot the adulterous secrets was that she and Henry had a largely unhappy and unloving marriage. Toward the end, she admits, they were "barely able to have a peaceful conversation." She blames the failure of their union on his wandering eye and ceaseless search for perfection. Her claim that she ultimately let go of blaming Henry seems disingenuous, since the legacy she leaves both readers and her daughter is this vapid, mean-spirited record. The book's final third chronicles her successfulonline-dating quest for a new mate and subsequent move back to Brooklyn. Neither revelatory nor magnanimous. Agent: Elaine Markson/Elaine Markson Agency
Redbook
"Lyrical, haunting, and utterly gripping."
Working Mother
"In lyrical, moving prose, we're treated to a powerful story of love, infidelity, grief--and starting over."
The New York Times
"A visual standout. [Metz] brings refreshing candor to a startling, painful tale."
Glamour
"Heart-wrenching but triumphant."
People Magazine
"A fascinating memoir by a woman who, after learning of her much-loved late husband's history of affairs, decides to confront her former rivals."
USA Today
"Readers will be mesmerized. Her honesty about middle-aged sex and fear of never finding the "new" right someone make this a delectable summer read."
Real Simple
"You'll be absorbed by the real-life sleuthing in Perfection, a riveting memoir about a widow who discovers that her late husband lived a deceptive double life."
Marian Fontana
"It is impossible to put PERFECTION down as we follow Julie Metz through her true story of love, lies, loss and moving forward. Her raw and brave writing makes you want to cheer Metz on as she pieces her life back together, one beautiful sentence at a time."
Susan Shapiro
"Julie Metz's memoir of how her marriage unraveled after her mate's death is piercingly honest, haunting and heartbreaking. Anyone who has ever been in a bad relationship will over-identify."
Julie Powell
"Metz's Perfection chronicles with lapidary precision one woman's climb back to happiness after not just a spouse's death, but also the shocking recognition that her life before that death was not what she had thought it was. The journey is a painful one, but Ms. Metz is much the stronger for having survived to recount it."
Hilma Wolitzer
"This aching memoir of love, loss, and deception is candid and compelling. I found myself rooting for Julie Metz in her search for a happy second life."
Shelf Awareness
"A dark, evocative memoir from a woman forced to come to terms with her husband's death and the revelation of his infidelity."
From the Publisher
"In lyrical, moving prose, we're treated to a powerful story of love, infidelity, grief--and starting over."—Working Mother

"A visual standout. [Metz] brings refreshing candor to a startling, painful tale."—The New York Times, Janet Maslin

"Heart-wrenching but triumphant."—Glamour

"A fascinating memoir by a woman who, after learning of her much-loved late husband's history of affairs, decides to confront her former rivals."—People Magazine

"Readers will be mesmerized. Her honesty about middle-aged sex and fear of never finding the "new" right someone make this a delectable summer read."—USA Today

"You'll be absorbed by the real-life sleuthing in Perfection, a riveting memoir about a widow who discovers that her late husband lived a deceptive double life."—Real Simple

"It is impossible to put PERFECTION down as we follow Julie Metz through her true story of love, lies, loss and moving forward. Her raw and brave writing makes you want to cheer Metz on as she pieces her life back together, one beautiful sentence at a time."—Marian Fontana, author of A WIDOW'S WALK

"Julie Metz's memoir of how her marriage unraveled after her mate's death is piercingly honest, haunting and heartbreaking. Anyone who has ever been in a bad relationship will over-identify."—Susan Shapiro, author of FIVE MEN WHO BROKE MY HEART and LIGHTING UP

"Metz's Perfection chronicles with lapidary precision one woman's climb back to happiness after not just a spouse's death, but also the shocking recognition that her life before that death was not what she had thought it was. The journey is a painful one, but Ms. Metz is much the stronger for having survived to recount it."—Julie Powell, author of JULIE & JULIA

"This aching memoir of love, loss, and deception is candid and compelling. I found myself rooting for Julie Metz in her search for a happy second life."—Hilma Wolitzer, author of THE DOCTOR'S DAUGHTER and HEARTS"Lyrical, haunting, and utterly gripping."—Redbook

"A dark, evocative memoir from a woman forced to come to terms with her husband's death and the revelation of his infidelity."—Shelf Awareness

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781401322557
  • Publisher: Hyperion
  • Publication date: 6/9/2009
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Julie Metz is a graphic designer and freelance writer. She lives with her daughter and partner in Brooklyn, NY. She is currently a recipient of a Macdowell Fellowship.
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Read an Excerpt

One
January 8-12, 2003It happened like this: Henry's footsteps on the old wooden floorboards. The toilet flushing. More footsteps, perhaps on the stairs. Silence. Then the thud.I was working downstairs in my office on a bitterly cold Wednesday afternoon. My workspace was an enclosed sunporch off our living room, the small-paned windows on three sides framing a view of the snowy hills across the road. Wrapped in a shawl,wearing fuzzy socks on my chilled feet, I continued studying the project on my computer screen. I had been a graphic designer for nearly twenty years, a freelancer, specializing in cover designs for book publishers. Today's project was a novel about hard-luck cowboys, due yesterday, as always. I stopped fiddling with type design possibilities as I glanced at the computer clock -- in an hour I would have to make a dash out to the car to pick up our six-and a half-year-old daughter Liza just before school let out at 3:10. Henry had been sick in bed all morning. There would be the freezing cold wait and the daily social milling with the other mothers on the school playground, then the quick drive home to finish my work. I'd wear my new sheepskin coat today and feel guilty about its expense on a warmer day. On second thought, the distressed sans serif type worked better with the moody image of a cowboy leaning against a split rail fence.Suddenly my brain rewound sharply.It wasn't a package dropped outside by the UPS guy.My office phone rang. Instinctively, I answered. The photographer on the line asked me how I liked the images he had emailed.It wasn't the cats knocking groceries off the kitchen counter."I can't talk now -- something bad is happening." I ended the call abruptly.The rooms were silent as I ran up the stairs, calling for Henry. Two of our four cats skittered out of my way, their nails clawing the wooden treads. The bedroom was empty. I raced back down the stairs.I found Henry on his back, spread-eagled on the kitchen floor, his head a few inches from the oven broiler. He was still breathing. His body was silhouetted against the sea blue of the painted floorboards. I imagined the outline of a police chalk drawing of the victim at a crime scene. I was overcome with the feeling that I was in the scene and watching a scene on television -- an opening sequence of an episode of Six Feet Under, our favorite show that year. Usually some minor character dies in the first five minutes.He inhaled with a shallow breath; small dribbles of saliva on his curved lips, the skin on his face now sallow and ashen. He exhaled with a feeble sigh. His eyes flickered half open. I spoke to him to let him know that I was there with him, but for once in our life together he could not speak back.A long elastic minute stretched out and snapped: Is this when people call 911? Or is Henry going to sit up and tell me to stop fussing, like he did yesterday after he passed out? This must be the same thing. He came in after taking out the garbage and fell down flat on the floor. The doctor said all the tests were normal --I called 911. I sat down on the floor next to him stroking his forehead, watching him breathe. A hissing sound as spittle pulsed between his lips.I wish I had a notepad and pencil. Henry would want me to take notes. The EMS guys will come. They'll check him out. He'll be fine. He'll be telling people about his near death at our next dinner party. "The report of my death was an exaggeration," is what he'll say. Everyone will laugh and I'll feel pathetic for having worried so much.I'm happy to feel pathetic if everything will just please, please turn out okay.I called 911 again, just to be sure. I called Emily who lived five minutes away and was usually home at two in the afternoon. Anna was more reliable -- I knew she wouldn't freak out, no matter what happened today -- but she lived twelve minutes away. Then I called Matthew, Henry's best friend, who lived with his wife in a nearby town.Every minute will make a difference. The EMS guys will come; they will bring oxygen tanks, defibrillators, and IV bags. All will be well. Emily will help me find a babysitter for Liza, then she will go with me to the hospital, and we'll get there and Henry will be awake, smiling and joking as usual.I sat back down next to him on the blue floor stroking the familiar wrinkles, the scar over one eyelid, the small mole at the crest of one cheek.Inhale. Exhale. A blue gauze curtain passed over him. His skin turned to wax."Breathe!" I screamed at him. "Start breathing now!" I pounded him on the chest.He wasn't listening to me. I placed my mouth on his and blew my breath into him; the blue briefly faded into rose like a watercolor wash. But the flush faded back to blue. He was still. The man who for sixteen years had loved me, driven me crazy, fought with me, fed me, made love with me, made a baby with me, exhaled one last breath, the air I had blown into his lungs.I looked up, distracted by the sound of the sliding porch door, followed by a blast of cold air. The EMS guys had arrived with a gurney and gear and gently hustled me out of the kitchen. Emily followed right after them.* * *You'll know it's bad when they take you to the little waiting room. Emily held my left arm. Her face was pale, her lips still rosy from the cold, her dark bobbed hair peeking from under a familiar blue cloche hat. Matthew sat on my right. Matthew was tall, built like a tree. The sad-eyed young doctor told us it was a pulmonary embolism. A blood clot, formed in the leg, had moved upward and lodged in the lung, causing cardiac arrest. They had tried everything they could to revive him. But.Everything moved in slow motion as I processed his words. This couldn't be right. Whenever we'd watched Six Feet Under together, the main characters made it safely to the next episode. I slid off my chair to the floor and screamed.
"You can lie next to him if you want," Emily offered. She was calm, amazingly, looking at Henry's lifeless body on the gurney. "Go ahead, it won't bother me at all."I climbed up onto the narrow gurney and lay down next to him. He would have wanted me to note every detail for him -- the way his chest was still warm, while his arms were already stiff and cold and his fingers were curled and blue. He had a bruise on the left side of his face. It was comforting to rest there with my arm around him, touching him in a familiar way, relieved still to have a companion, even a quiet one. He had beautiful feet, elegantly articulated toes, like the feet on a Greek statue. I peeled back his shirt to look at the distinctive scar on his chest. A bit of cornhusk had punctured his skin while he was working on a farm as a teenager. The healing wound had formed an inch-long raised keloid that I loved to touch in the dark. I touched the large and dark mole on his left shoulder. I felt the scar over his right eye, received as a child in a hotel in Honolulu (designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, Henry always added when telling the story), when a window had fallen suddenly out of its molding as he passed under it with his family. All his scars and moles, so well known to me, like stepping stones marking the way home through a dark wood.Two nurses came in. "You should go home now and get some rest," one said. She put her hand on my shoulder, squeezed me gently.Emily took my arm and we walked down the fluorescent-lit corridors and stepped out into the twilight, a remarkable sky of inky blue with low hanging clouds. A flock of black birds rushed up into the sky, their wings moved in unison, a tragic banner.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 148 )
Rating Distribution

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(40)

4 Star

(33)

3 Star

(32)

2 Star

(29)

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(14)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 148 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 11, 2009

    Will take your breath away

    Julie Metz has written a memoir that will take your breath away, from the initial, unexpected death of her husband to the postmortem revelation of his many affairs. Metz's style is both intimate and literary, elevating the central drama of her life to a meditation on the nature of human need and fallibility. In exposing her own grief, rage, vulnerability and audacity, Metz allows us to connect deeply and emotionally with her story. Her need to understand what happened in her marriage leads her to confront the women in her dead husband's past, which ultimately gives her the opportunity to see herself more fully. In this powerful and empowering tale, raw grief and righteous anger finally give way to forgiveness, acceptance and new love.

    13 out of 14 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted July 29, 2009

    Interesting At First...But Ultimately Boring!

    When the story starts, one gets wrapped up in the emotion of losing a spouse and what a person goes through. I actually felt sorry for Julie at that point. But, mere WEEKS after the funeral, and BEFORE Julie finds out about her husband's infidelities, she starts acting like a dog in heat with the pursuit of sex as her main focus. I was disgusted as this continued throughout the book, until the end. I would not recommend this book unless you want to hear about Julie's sexual exploits which turn out to be very boring!

    10 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 2, 2009

    Dissappointing

    I found this writer self absorbed and bitter. Unfortunately, many spouses cheat. The woman's responsibility is to her child and getting on with her life. Calling mistresses from 5 years ago and reading your dead husband's old e-mails only causes more pain and self torture. Join the crowd, Lady, and get over yourself!

    9 out of 23 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 1, 2009

    Perfection

    At first Perfection was an egrossing memoir, but after several chapters I found the author somewhat self-absorbed and then obsessed with the woman who had stolen her husband's affections. It was a relief to finish the book, especially since the author is now remarried and obviously very happy.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 6, 2009

    Truth IS Stranger than Fiction

    It is impossible to put "Perfection" down. I initially browsed through it to decide if I would take it along on a trip and there I was five hours later, still turning the pages. Julie's honesty took my breath away. She tells ALL but it is done with great authenticity, courage and compassion. Perfection is a spiritual journey to find the truth in her life, in her marriage, in her friendships. It is authentic, heart-breaking and thought provoking. When you finish the book, you will never quite see the world the same way. You will question the surface of things. And hopefully you will buy two more copies for your closest friends.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 28, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    great

    I love reading such books. It widens your perspective. can only recommend

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 2, 2009

    Perfection

    This book was written beautifully.
    It was also very heartbreaking and didn't expect all the emotions that I was feeling. I would recommend it as a book club read also.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 28, 2009

    A self-absorbed story

    I began this book with open-minded enthusiasm for one woman's journey but, two-thirds of the way through, I realized the author, hopefully, was (and not "is") one of those people who relishes being the victim and cannot take responsibility for themselves in the relationship. I found her recitations of her sexual partners to be tedious after the first two or three. Obviously an intelligent and gifted person with financial resources, I suddenly realized that it is not always the poor and uneducated who find themselves in this role.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 29, 2009

    Bleh

    I did not find this writer's style to be at all compelling. Her voice was weak and rambling. Her images were awkward. While I thought I'd be into finding out how her story unfolded, I found myself utterly bored and disinterested in her.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 8, 2009

    An enlightening look into a marriage

    If I had not known this was a true story I would have thought it was a good work of fiction. The story of this marriage and betrayal is sad, touching, and has a twist. How the widow handles her husband's indescretions is unique.

    I thought the book was well written and interesting.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 26, 2009

    Great Read

    This was a wonderful book! I ordered it early and awaited it's arrival. I am glad that I did. The author did a great job reliving a troubled spot in her life, writing and recalling with dignity. I could not put this book down. I found myself quickly taking sides, yet trying to think about how I would feel in each person's shoes. I will read this again.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 19, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Loss and Betrayal

    Julie Metz first time novelist writes her memoir of her marriage to a man she is just getting to know after his death. Perfection opens with the last moments of Henry's life when the unthinkable becomes reality and at the age of 44 Julie becomes a widow, her daughter Liza who is just 6 loses her father and a 12 year, sometimes happy, sometimes tumultuous marriage comes to an end. Then the task of picking up the pieces begins. What was hidden for so long now comes to light and Julie finds out that Henry has been unfaithful. Every new discovery leads you deeper into their story. Perfection is a story of loss and of betrayal. But it is also a story of growth and finally hope. You never know how strong you are until you are put to the test and Julie does more than just survive, she learns how to live again.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 24, 2010

    ...

    Although I did finish the book, it wasn't one of those books that I couldn't put down.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 8, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Boring

    This is a true story which I usually enjoy. I felt the author is quite self-absorbed and seems to think highly of herself. She seems to have a different set of rules; one set for herself and one set for everyone else. Comes across as being a hypocrite. I had to struggle to get through this one.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 9, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Wow! What a story

    I'm sure this book was very therapeutic for the writer. I did not really need to know so much about her sex life, nor did I care to. However, the story waa well written, and almost unbelievable. I enjoyed 3/4 of the book and then it became a little repetitive the last quarter of the book. I wish the author well and glad to know she is happy and in a safe and healthy relationship Loaned this out to some friends. Some liked it, some did not.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 2, 2009

    Perfection

    It was not that interesting. It drug on too long.

    2 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 2, 2009

    Understanding the "why" of betrayal

    I enjoyed Julie Metz's book very much. I was absorbed in her journey of understanding why her husband had cheated through her marriage and her acceptance of the great mystery of the "why" anyone does what they do.

    When Julie learns of her husband's perfidy, she experiences exactly what those of who have experienced something similar -- great rage, anger and confusion. Learning to forgive and accept what happened is truly a journey, and I enjoyed how Julie completed hers. I was especially intrigued by her research into the reasons for infidelity and that the answer is people make choices and that often these choices have terrible consequences to others.

    I recommend this book for anyone who is struggling with understanding his/her spouse's infidelity and how to gain acceptance of this. Great read.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 1, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Rings true for those of us who have been there...

    SPOILER ALERT: I do reveal the secret! Perfection is the author's descent discovery of her husband's adultery and betrayal. She captures with perfection the myriad of emotions and thoughts I know I experienced. This book helped me process, and I cannot recommend it more highly.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 1, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Perfection in the memoir

    Julie Metz found herself in a position that any woman who loves and trusts her husband could find herself in. She had herself neatly tucked inside a comfortable bubble which bursts none too soon when her 40ish husband simply drops dead in front of her. He leaves her a mess of emotional garbage (not to mention incriminating emails) to deal with. Handfulls of affairs and humiliating behavior and everyone knew. Everyone but the wife. A fascinating read & real juicy, too!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 22, 2009

    Men are less than perfect

    Women will cheer for Julie as she overcomes the initial grief of losing her husband and again when she has to cope with the discovery of her husband's betrayal during their marriage. She tells the story with such touching detail. Some of it is almost hard to believe but that's what makes it so hard to put down. I would have preferred she not make her political comments though. Some of her readers will feel alienated if they don't lean to the left like she does.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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