Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Making Piece

Beth M Howard's Making Piece falls into the Cathartic Grief category, and I know that word "grief" makes you wary. Don't be. This book is uplifting and redemptive, and when it found its way to me, it was like spending time with an empathetic friend who was telling me her story in order to help me heal. The emphasis is not really on the loss, but the forging ahead. The ability to go back to basics and create something new from the bombed-out remains of her previous life. Beth Howard is an extraordinary and inspiring person and her tale is well-worth reading.

Beth's 43-year-old husband died suddenly while they were in the throes of a divorce neither of them were sure they wanted. They loved each other, but being married wasn't working, so her grief was complicated and all-encompasing, yet when you read through the 18 months following his death, it's with awe and wonder that she has the wherewithal to get out on the road and bake for people, for pies are her salvation. She has always baked pies. In fact, she is crazily pie-obsessed (in a good way!) and uses pie — baking it and sharing it — as a metaphor for healing throughout the book.

She is also a journalist and it shows in her engaging writing. At the end of each chapter, late at night, I found myself turning the page, thinking, "just one more chapter…", which is surely the best sign of a good book! I felt akin to her in many little ways too. In one instance, she talks about nature as a source of healing, which made total sense to me: "For as much as making pie soothes my soul, I find my greatest solace in nature. Pie connects me with people, but nature connects me with God and with myself."

She also talks about going back to Iowa, where she was born and spent her childhood and it reminded me of my own Midwestern childhood, with its sense of security and community. She goes to the Iowa State Fair as a pie judge and says, "From the minute I set foot onto the fairgrounds, I was filled with a giddiness I hadn't expected. First of all, I hate crowds. I prefer solitude with occasional but controlled social gatherings." That about sums me up, but I know exactly what she means about that giddiness. What joy to re-experience that connection!

The thing that really got me, though, was that the whole year after her husband died, she just followed her gut and let "life" lead her from place to place, experience to opportunity. She listened carefully and by doing so found what was right for her. It's so important we all do this and so rare that any of us do. Her book left me feeling like I had spent time with a cherished old friend, revisiting my past, and full of hope for the future… but be warned, reading this will leave you with a ferocious urge to eat pie!!

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