Book Review: Perfection by Julie Metz

October 17, 2010
Title: Perfection: A Memoir of Betrayal and Renewal
Author: Julie Metz
Genre: Non Fiction, Memoir
Format: Hardcover
Year Published: 2009
Source: I purchased this book.

Perfection: A Memoir of Betrayal and Renewal, by Julie Metz, is about the sudden death of the author's husband and what happened when she learned some dark truths about her marriage. Metz's husband Henry died suddenly from a pulmonary embolism at 44. Was it purely medical reasons that killed him? Or was it something else? Metz had noticed that her husband seemed tired and was listless. Since Henry was the type that liked to pack every minute of the day with activity, she knew something was wrong, but was still stunned by his sudden death, dying in her arms in their kitchen.

Several months later, Metz discovered that Henry had been conducting several extramarital affairs, including a married woman who was supposedly Julie's "friend". The woman, Cathy, lived in the same small town and was the mother of one of Julie's daughter's best friends. The affair had been tumultuous, and had lasted several years. Henry had left behind numerous emails that he had exchanged with this woman and several others.

As Julie worked through her anger and grief, she came up with an unusual idea. She had already confronted Cathy, but what about the others? She actually called or emailed the other women in her husband's life. She wanted to know exactly what it was that Henry was in compulsive searching for other women. Was it purely sexual? Was he searching for something that Julie could not offer him? Was he always looking for something else in each new woman? As Metz says:

I thought about that idea of perfection. Every woman he fantasized about was a new opportunity to imagine perfection, just as every meal he prepared was another opportunity to reach a kind of nirvana. But just as shallots burn in overheated butter, so these relationships disappointed.
It became obvious to Metz that Henry had begun to feel overwhelmed by all the different women in his life, and the strain had begun to wear on him.

Strangely enough, all the other women actually contacted Julie back. She surprisingly began to feel somewhat of a strange sort of friendship with some of them. However, she simply could not tolerate being in the same small town as Cathy, and knew that eventually she would have to leave, especially since almost everyone in their tiny town knew about the affair. She was also overwhelmingly lonely.

Julie knew that if she was to heal, that she would have to move on, both physically (by moving back to Brooklyn), and by moving on to other men -- men that would not be secretive and would be more supportive than Henry ever was. She now realized that she needed to find a man that was not necessarily her "type" -- because she realized that she wasn't always the best judge of character, since even during their courtship Henry had left plenty of warning signs that his idea of a relationship was not the same as hers.

Metz does not spare herself either. She is brutally honest about herself as a sexual being. She does become intimate with a male friend very soon after the death of her husband and even before she finds out about Henry's infidelities. She also inadvertently hurts several other men in the process of finding a true life partner.

Perfection is a very unusual memoir in that Metz did not simply suffer from the anguish that end of her marriage had caused, but used it to build a better life for herself and her daughter. It is a book that I definitely recommend. 

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