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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


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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: #2,233,803 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By atmj TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 2, 2010
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 Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
It sounds like an idyllic life. Two journalists share a love of Italy and food, they get their dream jobs, they have amazing friends with homes in amazing places who invite them to stay for months on end...and then tragedy hits and it all goes wrong. Paula Butterini is on assignment in Czechoslovakia, where she is arrested and beaten by the police during the 1989 riots. A few weeks later, her husband John is hit by sniper fire while in Rumania and is nearly killed. Paula pulls herself together, but John's wounds are deeper that we first realize. He becomes depressed to the point of losing his ability to speak, his walking is robotlike, he avoids people. For years, Paula's fun-loving husband becomes submerged in a depression that seens incurable. Doctor after doctor, treatment after treatment, and city after city make no difference. Paula's feelings run the gamut from terror to rage. But always, there is her food, her cooking, her solace. She buries herself in cooking the way other's might lose themselves in drink. John's recovery takes a long time...through the birth and first five years of their daughter's life. His employers amazingly keep him in jobs of sorts as a reporter, and friends supply accommodations. But it's hardly dolce far niente. You can almost feel Paula willing John to recover. This is a woman who does not give up. She has a child with a man who is so lost to her and to himself, he can barely speak to her. She brings the child of his previous marriage back into his life. His depression does not stop her from creating a world around him. Whether she does this because she knows it is the life he would want to lead--and should be leading--if he were not ill, or because she's going for the trappings even if the reality is skewed...readers will have to decide for themselves.Read more ›
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