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Keeping the Feast: One Couple's Story of Love, Food, and Healing in Italy Hardcover – February 18, 2010

4.1 out of 5 stars 49 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Married just a few months, Butturini endures the horror of her foreign-correspondent husband’s shooting while he covered the collapse of Romania’s Communist regime. Although he survives infection and numerous surgeries, the trauma opens the door to deep depression. This mental unwinding particularly terrifies Butturini, whose own mother suffered from postpartum depression and eventually committed suicide. The two retreat to their beloved Italy, where a daily regimen of good food and caring friends sustain them both. Thanks to competent medical attention and constant love, he gradually recovers, but rejoicing over the birth of their own daughter abruptly ends with the onset of another downward spiral. Butturini seeks comfort, if not answers, in family history and finds grace to sustain her. This is an unsentimental first-person account of living with severe depression, and Butturini finds real ground for hope despite the disease’s intractability and its potential for genuine tragedy. --Mark Knoblauch


"When we find ourselves coping with pain, the kitchen can become our therapist, food our source of comfort. The joy of cooking was certainly the salve that soothed the emotional wounds that the journalist Paula Butturini endured. . . . [A] blunt and brave memoir."
-The New York Times Book Review

"In this moving account . . . Butturini describes how she turned to the familiar comforts of preparing meals to maintain control as her husband spiraled into darkness. . . . Feast is a reminder that food sustains not only bodies but souls as well."
-People (three and a half stars)

"Her account of Tagliabue's shooting and near-death brings tears to the eyes."
-San Francisco Chronicle

"It is a celebration of the human spirit, persevering in the face of overwhelming obstacles, and a paean to the restorative ability of food to bring comfort and peace to our souls as well as our bodies."

"Bringing out the sights, scents, and tastes of Italy, she delicately and expertly simmers together memories of violence, pain, and depression with stories of hope and love. . . . Butturini's writing about Italy, food, family, and friends will appeal to readers of travel memoirs; her treatment of injury and illness will provide inspiration to those who seek healing; and her straightforward accounts of the turmoil during the fall of the Soviet bloc will interest those who enjoy history and politics. Highly recommended."
-Library Journal

"If food is love and love heals, does that mean that food heals? Paula Butturini proves the equation in gorgeous yet unadorned prose. I will never, ever forget this book."
-Patricia Volk, author of Stuffed and To My Dearest Friends

"Written with grace and courage, Paula Butturini's Keeping the Feast is about the endurance of love in the face of overwhelming odds--depression, tragedy, loss. But it is also about the comfort to be found in the dailiness of life, when every humble act becomes an act of faith; when the preparation and sharing of three good meals a day, however simple, is both a reminder and a celebration--an insistence on celebration--of what life offers. Keeping the Feast is a triumph of will and spirit. It made me hungry for everything."
-Abigail Thomas, author of A Three Dog Life

"Keeping the Feast is a remarkable story, gorgeously told. We reflect, relish, grieve, and heal our way with Paula Butturini, who is wise about so many things-family and place; depression, religion, and love; the disastrous long-term fallout of a single bullet fired at a loved one; and the immediate restorative pleasures of a single Italian meal. This book evokes life at its most serious and dire, and at its most mysterious and delectable. Read it, and be deepened and refreshed."
-Krista Tippett, host of the public radio program Speaking of Faith


Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover; First Edition edition (February 18, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594488975
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594488979
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.1 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,191,743 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Paula Butturini was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, grew up along Long Island Sound, got her B.A. from Wellesley College, and has spent most of her adult life in Europe, working and freelancing for numerous U.S. newspapers and the old United Press International in London, Madrid, Rome, Warsaw, and Paris. Her first book, "Keeping the Feast," was published by Riverhead/Penguin on Feb. 18, 2010.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The author chronicles her life shortly before and after she and her husband received brutal treatment when covering various European assignments. She was brutally beaten when caught in some protests and he was shot while traveling. His injuries required many surgeries and then while healing he fell into a horrible depression.

The book provides the author a chance to reflect on her and her husband's life and how it so tragically changed after these events. What is unique about this book, is that she has interwoven her relationship with food into their personal story.

Each of us has a relationship with food. It can be as simple as remembering favorites as children, family traditional meals, stories about meals or lore about certain foods that have been passed down. It also can be the rituals of preparing a special meal or even a daily one. Sometimes buying and preparing food where they lived in Italy was so interwoven into the community that it provided a haven for Paula when everything else seemed to be coming apart. . This reminded me a bit of Frances Mayes book; "Under the Tuscan Sun" where the author recounted stories of her life and home restoration along with stories of Italy and its wonderful food. However this book does not provide recipes, nor is as light-hearted. This is a story of survival and there food is integral.

As difficult as the subject matter is, this book reads easily and is very well-written, but it does not candy-coat, the long road of depression. What it does do, is show how the little things in life, the support of good friends, the importance of work and the community around the kitchen table can start to draw those separated from life by anxiety and depression back from the abyss.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Choosing, cooking, eating, and savoring food is the constant in this memoir. Paula Butturini and her husband met while they were both reporters in Italy. The years they spent together there were golden - good food, good friends and interesting work that included travel in eastern Europe as the iron curtain crumbled. Butturini writes: "I loved John because, like me, he liked to cook as much as he liked to eat, because both of us grew up in homes where honest food was the central magnet that brought us all to the same table two or three times a day."

Their lives took a sudden and traumatic turn after Paula was beaten by Czechoslovakian riot police in Prague in 1989 just weeks before their wedding. Weeks after the wedding, her husband John was shot in Romania and nearly died. Butturini writes very openly about the depression that threatened to destroy her husband as he recovered. Though it is painful to read of John's depression, and of Butturini's mother's depression, the support that the couple's family and friends provided to them is heartening.

Butturini made a decision to do whatever it took to help her husband recover, and after moving them back to Italy fed both his body and his heart with the simple but fresh foods that had been the backdrop of their first years together. She is open in this memoir about her own struggles, including her anger, as the months went by, sometimes with little or no improvement in her husband's depression.

Butturini was told, and came to understand, that trauma changes life irrevocably, and healing involves accepting this painful truth. Though it is a bit of a cliche, this is a heartwarming story of building a new life after trauma and relying on the love of friends and family.
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Format: Hardcover
Paula Butturini's memoir Keeping the Feast is more than a true story about a couple's enduring love set among a delicious Italian background full of food and flavor; it's a story of hope, and the bond of family, and the anguish of a person helplessly afflicted with depression.

Paula met her second husband John in Italy. They married when she was in her late thirties. Both news correspondents, both with strong Italian-family backgrounds, Paula and John were meant for each other, and their love endured trials many of us cannot fathom. In 1989 Paula was beaten senseless by riot police in Czechoslovakia, just weeks before her and John are to be married. Barely surviving her own trauma, it is only a handful of weeks later when John is shot by a sniper in Romania. Undergoing several surgeries, John barely survives. The couple land back in Italy to recoup, only John suffers a devastating depression that threatens to tear their marriage apart. Paula takes refuge in her Italian markets, diving into her family recipes, the ingredients which held her together as a child as she hopes they can hold her family together now.

Keeping the Feast is marketed as a memoir about the tribulations a couple goes through, and how food kept them together. But I can't help but look beyond the ingrediants, the never-ending succulent lists of Italian market-wares and herbs. Paula's own mother suffered from depression, it was something Paula herself feared her whole life. To have her husband, the love of her life, afflicted by the same disease, was terrifying and my heart goes out to her. Not everyone understands the crippling devastation that is depression, the way it can leach into your life, but Paula did, she saw it first hand and she vowed to never let it bury her.
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