Where Local and Global Appetites Collide

Book Review-Cleaving: A Story of Marriage, Meat, and Obsession

Book Review-Cleaving: A Story of Marriage, Meat, and Obsession

I wanted to like this book because I loved Julie & Julia by Julie Powell which led to the movie Julia starring Meryl Streep.

If you like reading a memoir about butchering animals and bad love, no, make that obsessive-compulsive bad love – then you will love Cleaving.

Although I’m not a vegetarian nor a vegan, the very graphic scenes of butchering was upsetting almost revolting. I eat meat. Not a lot, certainly less than last year after watching the movie, Food, Inc. but still eat meat to some extent just less of it.

At the end of Julie & Julia, Julie Powell had to be riding high on her success as a writer and ability to accomplish making a complicated Julia Child’s recipe every single day for a year. Hell, I was impressed that she went from blogger to book author and her book was the premise for a movie. That is every blogger’s dream.

Then along comes the book Cleaving which is totally raw in every sense of the word.

I can imagine that after having a successful first book, that to write an equally successful book is not easy or perhaps not even possible. Certainly, the pressures to reproduce on that level are higher than a perfect souffle.

In her book Cleaving, Ms. Powell is not happy. Her affair with “D” goes downhill (he sounds like a self-serving prick). Her husband because of her affair with “D” is also having an affair. To escape, she becomes a butcher apprentice away from NYC where she rents an apartment and works hard to the point of developing aching carpal tunnel, a byproduct of the meat cutting industry.

For me, it’s downright painful to see this woman whom I so admired grappling with such low self esteem. She seems lost. Where’s the Prozac?

But to her credit, she has the guts to write about it.

After she finishes her apprenticeship, Ms. Powell moves back to the city but is still not happy so gets on a plane  to Argentina. I was hoping she would eat a lot of gelato and have a few torrid one night stands but no such thing. She goes to the stockyard and watches too much slaughter. Somewhere along the line she drinks blood and then goes to Tanzania where some bad things almost happen.

What’s more amazing to me is that I actually read most of the book but skipped over much of the gore. I guess I was hoping for a happy ending…so much for great expectations.

While her first book was a delicious truffle, this book requires a strong antacid.

Want your food memoir or cookbook reviewed? Contact karynzoldan@yahoo.com

  1. I agree, Cleaving was painful to read and more than once I thought about sitting it aside, or tossing it out the nearest window, but I did make it all the way through.

    The butchery was not nearly as disturbing at Julie’s excessive cruelty to Eric and her apparent joy at inflicting this cruelty. Still, the butchery was all that fun to read either.

  2. Descartes
    Thanks for commenting.
    You’re absolutely right that Eric did not deserve such crappy treatment.
    You have to wonder how did her life fall apart after her success of Julie & Julia.
    I rather doubt Cleaving will be a movie anytime soon but then again, you never know.

  3. I did have to put this book down a few times! With so many other great culinary adventure books out there, I felt disappointed in this one. It left me feeling grateful for my life, though. Most of the time while reading Cleaving, my reaction was to tell Julie Powell to stop whining and making a mess of her life. Since I’m doing a butchering class soon, I thought it would be helpful, but – eh, not so much.

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