Keeping the Feast discussion with author Paula Butturini

Hello, readers!

Tonight we are privileged to welcome Paula Butturini, author of Keeping the Feast, to our Winter Reading Series discussion.  She will be here “live” participating in our discussion and answering questions at 5 pm PST (8 pm EST) in the comments section of this post.

The conversation got going in this post, where I posed some discussion questions for everyone and asked for questions for Paula.

I’ve been gathering your questions for Paula and of course would welcome more.  Here’s what we have so far.

My questions:

How does John feel about Keeping the Feast?  How might the book have been different if he’d been the one to write the memoir?

Your beating was so brutal.  At what point did you feel safe and confident enough to work again?

I remember reading that you kept a journal (I can’t find it in the book, but I remember reading that!)  Did you know then that you might write a book like this?  How were you journals used in writing the book- did you re-read them, use whole sections, or just refer back to them as necessary?  Did John also keep a journal?

The bullet that ripped through John changed your lives so dramatically.  Journalists put themselves in harms way in the most dangerous places in the world, getting as close to the action as possible in order to share it with the masses.  Why do they risk their lives that way?  At what point is personal safety more important than the public’s need to know?

From Jill at Fizzy Thoughts:

I was surprised by their decision to buy a house in France…I would’ve expected a return to Italy. I was wondering if she’d be willing to speak a little bit about what factors influenced their decision to buy a house in France, and if Italy was even a consideration.

Also.. has living in France changed the way she cooks?

When I saw Thrity Umrigar at FoB last year she mentioned that journalism gave her good work ethics for writing her novels…that writer’s block wasn’t an issue, as she considered it her job to sit down and write every day (I’m totally paraphrasing here). Did Paula find it difficult to transition from journalism to writing a book? Did she build on her experiences as a journalist, or was it a completely different writing experience?

From Kathy at Bermuda Onion:

I loved all the food descriptions and kept hoping for recipes, so I’m wondering if Paula has considered writing a cookbook.

From Susan at Suko’s Notebook:

The only additional question I might add is if there will be a sequel at some point in time, or even a book exclusively about food–not necessarily a cookbook, but something very food-related?  The author writes so beautifully about food.

From Dar at Peeking Between the Pages:

1.  I was amazed by your perseverance and patience in the face of John’s depression especially having grown up with it.  How difficult was that for you and how were you able to put aside your feelings and anger to be there for him like that? I think it takes a special kind of person to do that.

2.  How is your relationship with your daughter given how yours was with your mom?  It’s great how honest you are with her regarding John’s depression – she will grow up understanding depression hopefully instead of resenting it.

3. I really loved how food was something that always brought comfort whether shopping for it or preparing it.  I think it’s important to find that something that will bring you through the tough times.  I thank you as well for sharing your story with us about depression because too often it’s a hidden disease and it shouldn’t be.

And one from “anonymous” – ok, it’s me..

My husband had a nervous breakdown 4 years ago and suffered a scary bout of depression and anxiety after his business of 11 years failed.  I worry about a relapse whenever anything goes wrong and nervously watch for signs of it.  So, my question is, has John ever had a relapse?  Do you live in fear that he might?

Come by tonight at 5 pm PST (8 pm EST) to say hi to Paula and see how she answers our questions!  Hope to see you then!

157 Responses

  1. I’m really curious about why they decided to settle in France too! I’ll be back at 8:00.

  2. I am anxious to hear how she answers some of these questions! I will also be back to hear what she has to say!

  3. I will certainly stop by later!

  4. Memoirs are one of my favorite genres to read. I totally loved this book. I felt like I was right there with her on the journey.

    I will definitely be back later.

  5. I will stop by later to!

    This was a very difficult book for me to read. This is personal but with the annoymous comment/question above I will share this – my mom suffers from depression, was hospitalized for months when I was 10 and very heavily medicated. One day she stopped taking her medication and left the family (never returned).

    Yep… there’s a lot of emotional baggage there… I don’t like reading memoirs that make me relive the hardest part of my life (especially since my memories are in a 10 year olds mind).

    Great quesitons Lisa!

    • Oh, Mari {{hugs}}. I had no idea.

    • I am soo sorry to hear that…must have been very hard…

    • Mari: You and Paula are very strong women to have experienced such pain and persevered. KEEPING THE FEAST brought depression to light for me in a way I had never experienced before. The memoir was emotional to me, so I can only imagine, and admire, your personal experience with the content.

      • You guys are so sweet, it’s been my reality for 30 years but I would be lying if I didn’t say it’s with me almost daily.

        I can’t begin to imagine how difficult it would be to be married to someone with depression/emotional issues – as a child you can’t ‘leave’ think how strong spouses are that stay because they love their partner and want to help. Paula is amazing.

    • mari, i am just coming up for air, and only now reading the whole of the comments, so i just found yours, and thank you for managing — in spite of this childhood trauma — to read the book and comment. my brother told me that the chapter on our mother’s death helped him, and i only hope that someday you will be able to wade through to the other side of your story. to paraphrase my father, ‘it wasn’t your mom, it was the sickness.’ hope you don’t mind me responding. thanks.

  6. Hi, Everyone! Excited to join.

  7. Ok, it’s 5 pm where I am- on the west coast- and 8 pm in Washington DC, where Paula is- so let’s get started!

    First, let me welcome everybody to the discussion! Thanks so much for reading Keeping the Feast! I’m so happy to have read all your comments from the other post, and to have all your questions for Paula.

    Paula, welcome to Books on the Brain! We are so excited to have you here. Thank you so much for joining us.

    Your book was a really emotional read for me and I’m very happy to have the chance to talk with you. How are you this evening?

  8. I’m really excited to be here to talk to Paula “live”…looking forward to this very much!

  9. I agree with Lisa, this book was very emotional. Did you find it very emotional to write it?

  10. Paula will be here any minute.. she just emailed me🙂

  11. Thank you for hosting this Lisa. I hope you do some more of them

  12. Hello Lisa,

    I’m here.

    Paula

  13. I’m ready to “hear” the discussion!

  14. lisa, here’s the answer to your first question about john’s thoughts regarding the book:
    John, like the rest of the family, is truly happy that the book has been written and is now out in the world. He himself has never been able to read much about depression, especially while he was sick, although he says William Styron’s Darkness Visible was helpful to him when he wasn’t. While I hope that what our family went through might help other families going through similar hard times, John thinks the book is likely to help family members caring for someone in depression, i.e. the spouse and children, perhaps more than the person who is actually suffering through it.
    John read everything I wrote from the beginning, and would always add details or react in a way that got me thinking along some line I might never have thought of on my own. He was behind the idea of the book from the very beginning, in 1996, when I thought I’d be writing it for the children, as a difficult but important page in the Tagliabue family history. When I decided, fairly quickly, that I wanted to expand the project’s scope and turn it into a book, he was briefly leery of how he might feel about my describing in frank detail the most difficult parts of his depression. But by the time I returned to writing the book early in 2007, he had gotten used to the idea and was completely behind it. That only became more pronounced the more he saw how whenever we talked about that whole complicated time, either between ourselves or with the children, things became easier as each of us learned how the rest of us had been dealing with it all, in their own way, on their own terms. Each of us, John and I, as well as Peter, Anna and Julia, learned an amazing amount of things while I was writing the book.
    And if it had been John writing the book, instead of me, I think there would have been a lot more memories of HIS childhood rather than mine. And there probably would have been a lot more geo-political description in the book.

  15. Paula…first off, I want to tell you how much I enjoyed reading your book! I found myself wondering how YOU have been doing – there was so much emphasis on your husband’s depression and recovery…did you ever get to really explore the trauma YOU went through with the beating?

    • hi wendy, i did have plenty of time to explore the trauma related to my beating, but, believe me, my trauma was pretty mild compared to what john went through. it did help to talk about it with doctors and therapists, though, so that i didn’t feel as if john were getting all the attention and i was getting none!

      • I’m glad to hear you were able to process what you went through (although getting beaten seems like a pretty traumatic event…different from John’s, but it was something you personally had to deal with !)

  16. yes, i’d like to answer a bunch of questions you already posed, and then go on.

  17. There were some definate ”tissue moments”

    • There were so many tissue moments! I even found myself tearing up at the beautiful descriptions of food, as I tried my hardest to understand the significance of putting a meal on the table for the couple to eat together.

      • food is a way to get[and stay] close…also,this kind of food is so heavy, it is very comforting!!!

  18. Hi Paula and Lisa! I have been looking forward to this discussion all month.

  19. That’s a great question, Wendy. John’s shooting kind of stole Paula’s thunder, so to speak!

  20. I imagine discussing the depression now, especially with the children, helps everyone cope and understand it.

    • We definitely talk about these topics with the children whenever any of us feel the need, and when the big kids come to visit, we do try to play catch-up on these issues. Writing the book was one marvelous way of getting to the bottom of many questions and concerns. The children were a huge help in writing the book.

  21. Your beating was so brutal. At what point did you feel safe and confident enough to work again?

    I started working again immediately after our wedding; we flew right back to Prague at that point, and by the time we got back, it was clear that the Communist government had been tremendously destabilized during the week we were in Rome getting married (there’s a LOT of bureaucracy in Italy, and we had to go several days earlier to make sure it all got accomplished in just the right order, or they wouldn’t have gone ahead with the ceremony!). In any event, once we got back to Prague, I just started working again right away, although I was terribly relieved that John was with me, and I wasn’t on my own. I DID have worries that the cops might be told to beat me up again — and the secret police or somebody at our hotel who was working for them DID steal all our wedding snapshots to let us know that they were watching us — but I kept telling myself that they had bigger fish to fry… That said, I was somewhat uneasy and I have to confess that twenty years later I still get extremely anxious if I see squads of riot policemen, with plastic shields and helmets and truncheons, anywhere, not only in countries of the former east bloc, but even in Paris, even in the movies. There was a wonderful, lighthearted German movie that came out a few years ago called “Goodbye Lenin” about the collapse of the old East Germany, and one of the opening scenes involved armies of cops in riot gear, and I found myself weeping uncontrollably the minute the scene started…

  22. I’m glad that John was able to support your project, Paula…I find that writing can be so cathartic…and I imagine you being able to write what you went through helped immensely.

  23. I remember reading that you kept a journal (I can’t find it in the book, but I remember reading that!) Did you know then that you might write a book like this? How were you journals used in writing the book- did you re-read them, use whole sections, or just refer back to them as necessary? Did John also keep a journal?

    I had no thoughts whatsoever about writing a book when we were going through all these troubles. The idea of writing a book only evolved years later. The ‘journal’ you mention was simply one of my reporter’s notebooks, and I started it because so much was happening, and I was so stressed, that I found I had to take notes on what all the doctors, nurses, friends or colleagues were telling me, just to keep it all straight in my head. Remember, there was no email in that part of the world at the time John was shot, and it was my way of keeping things straight, and not forgetting possibly key bits of information. I tended to speak to one or another of John’s brothers each evening, and one night, after a particularly bad medical day, I found I simply couldn’t remember anything the doctors had told me; my mind went blank, which was a very nervewracking feeling. And I just started ‘reporting the story’ after that, taking notes on everything, so I wouldn’t have to search my brain for all the details John’s family wanted to know.

    When I started writing the book, these reporters notebooks were really helpful in re-creating what happened when, and who said what. I re-read them repeatedly, referred to them constantly, and pulled quotes and details from them all the time. They weren’t written in any sort of polished, coherent way, though — they were basically notes and quotes, so I don’t think I used whole sections. Some of my most useful notes were the very brief highlights I ended up recording on a calendar from Washington, D.C.’s National Cathedral, which my sister-in-law Chan gave me when she and and John’s brother Paul came to visit John in the hospital in Munich, because at a glance, I had every single major medical occurrence written down on the date it happened.

    John also kept a journal, but that was an after-the-fact thing, something he started months after he was out of the hospital, and of course, since he was unconscious for much of the first couple of weeks after the shooting, I actually had to fill him in on what had happened when he wasn’t conscious. His journal was extremely helpful to me as well, because he WAS conscious at the moment the bullet went though him, and he did have vivid, though scattered, memories of his time in the hospital in Romania, and since I wasn’t able to get there for several days after the shooting, his memories of that time were my main source of info for that period.

  24. I can imagine that the post-traumatic stress associated with the attack on you would be something that would stick with you forever. I think you were very brave to return to work so quickly – I’m not sure I could have done that.

    • Wendy, I don’t think it was bravery, but rather just doing the job you’re being paid to do. And at the time, I didn’t think lightning would strike twice in the same place…

  25. The bullet that ripped through John changed your lives so dramatically. Journalists put themselves in harms way in the most dangerous places in the world, getting as close to the action as possible in order to share it with the masses. Why do they risk their lives that way? At what point is personal safety more important than the public’s need to know?

    When I started out in journalism in the early 1970s, reporters tended to be seen more as observers, rather than players, in most potentially dangerous situations — except for war zones, of course — and I certainly always felt somewhat protected by that. War zones were always different, and there you simply took your chances, but of course the soldiers on both sides were the ones who were in the most danger. In recent years, reporters seem to have become seen as potential kidnap victims, and pawns, and that has made life a lot more dangerous, especially in countries where governments or police seem to think that shooting a reporter is the best way of communicating that they don’t want that story covered. I simply never went into any story thinking I could be risking my life, because if you start doing that, you’re not going to get very far. I think that after I was beaten, I certainly thought more about the possibility of something going wrong. The good thing, though, is that other reporters who hadn’t been injured, especially younger reporters, are always ready to charge into any situation, and that’s what helps keep reporting going on dangerous stories. That’s why the field always needs a certain amount of young reporters — unmarried, with no children — who don’t feel they’re risking too much to go into a dangerous spot.

  26. Jill from Fizzy Thoughts left a comment in the previous post with a question:

    I do have a question for her. I was surprised by their decision to buy a house in France…I would’ve expected a return to Italy. I was wondering if she’d be willing to speak a little bit about what factors influenced their decision to buy a house in France, and if Italy was even a consideration.

    We bought a house in France for a lot of reasons, the most basic being financial: old farmhouses in France don’t necessarily cost the earth, the way they do in Italy. Our budget and the reality of our lives simply couldn’t have managed a house in Italy. By the time we bought our house, we’d been living in Paris for about four years; Peter and Anna were attending university in Germany, and our budget would never have allowed us to think about flying five people to Italy for vacation PLUS pay a mortgage and taxes and everything else. We wanted to be able to use the house as much as possible, and we knew that if we bought a house in another country, it would mean that we’d be lucky to use it more than a couple of times a year. I wanted a bit of my own dirt to escape to whenever city life started seeming too confining. Italy was really never a consideration, although there’s nothing we like more than to be able to go back and visit our friends there. We went back to Rome this past fall — the first time in eight years that John, Julia and I went back together — and we stayed with friends the whole time, and it was absolute bliss.

  27. Also…has living in France changed the way she cooks?

    Living in France HAS changed, somewhat, the way I cook and eat. The main thing, I think, is that we eat a lot more cheese in France, not only because it’s a more standard part of the meal than in Italy, but because there’s so very much of it and it is SO very good. The main thing that’s changed, though, is that because the weather in Paris is so very different than the weather in Rome, I tend to cook a lot more winter dishes than I ever did when we were living in Italy. There is nothing like Paris’s cold, gray, damp weather to bring out the need for thick hot soups, and sturdier fare than I would ever cook in Italy, except perhaps for the few weeks of cold that passes for winter in Rome. I certainly haven’t changed my basic repertoire of recipes, and we still eat mainly Italian meals, with olive oil being and a bit of butter remaining the basic cooking fats I use; I still barely ever use cream or lots of butter in my cooking. The main thing I miss is the freshness and quality of certain vegetables — I miss all the bitter greens that Italians love to eat, and which are hard or impossible to find in Paris, things like broccoli rabe or chickory, and I really miss the sweet, tiny zucchini that Italians enjoy. Soil or sun or temperature differences make zucchini in France a more bitter vegetable than in Italy; it took me a few years to figure out that if i just don’t use the part with the seeds, it’s fine, though it annoys me to have to go through the trouble of scooping out or cutting out the seeds! I also miss Italian tomatoes. Northern France simply gets a lot less sun and heat than central Italy, and tomatoes need both; I’m happy trying to grow tomatoes down at our country house, which is about four hours southwest of Paris, and has warmer, sunnier weather but even our home-grown ones can’t quite compete.

  28. Wow, your description of the qualities needed in reporters sounds similar to the qualities needed in soldiers. What a reminder of how scary the world is!

  29. Welcome, Paula, I loved your book. Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions.

    Lisa, thank you for hosting this.

    I will read all the comments and then comment again.🙂

  30. Somebody asked a question about transitioning from journalism to writing the book:

    I definitely worried about the transition from journalism to book writing, but I quickly discovered that if I just focused my writing and thinking and planning on chapters or, better yet, parts of chapters, I didn’t get paralyzed with fear about how one could possibly keep a whole book in one’s head. I started out by writing vignettes, little tales that formed the basis of the various chapters, and worked to complete those. I wrote what I felt like writing, at the beginning, and didn’t try to plot the entire book from beginning to end. Once I got enough together to know where I was going, the chapters began to take shape. Once the chapters began to take shape, I could figure out fairly easily how to fill in the blanks.
    My journalism background was a great help, because there’s no such thing as writer’s block if you’re a reporter. You’ve got to get the thing written, period, and on time. Even if you write a story you hate, you still have to push the ‘send’ button in time to get it into the paper.
    I found that I wrote best early in the morning, immediately after waking, and I’d find myself waking up at 4 or 5 every morning and I’d just write non-stop till 7, when our daughter needed to be awakened. Once I’d gotten her out to school, and once John got up and out, I’d go back to the computer and keep writing, most days, till about 1 or 2 p.m., and then I was finished for the day and would have a few hours to race around and do all the regular stuff to get dinner on the table. I wasn’t hysterical about the writing though: some days it felt like I couldn’t write a word worth saving, but I’d still just sit there and type away, banging out all sorts of rubbish, and generally erasing it later on. That usually meant I wasn’t quite sure yet what I was trying to say. But my mind was always working on the manuscript, even when I was asleep, and sooner or later, I’d wake up one morning and everything seemed to have written itself in my sleep, and I’d go to the computer and bash out rough ideas that I knew would work. It might take more days to refine it, but the heart of the matter was there. I always felt I worked best when I had too much going on: if I knew I had a million non-book chores to do one day, that might be the very day that the writing went exceptionally well, because I knew I couldn’t spend but a short time at the computer, and better get it all down right or semi-right in short order.

  31. People have been asking questions about the possibility of another food book:

    Ever since people have started responding to the book, there have been constant questions about recipes. I never expected that. I’d love to do a food book someday soon; and if I did, i’d certainly try to include all the dishes I mention in Keeping the Feast.

  32. I always seem to enjoy books written by journalists – and perhaps you’ve explained why with that last answer…writing on deadline, having to be concise with your story…I think that all makes a book better in many ways.

  33. I’d buy a food book written by you any day!!! And I would LOVE the recipes from Keeping the Feast *drooling*

  34. I was amazed by your perseverance and patience in the face of John’s depression especially having grown up with it. How difficult was that for you and how were you able to put aside your feelings and anger to be there for him like that? I think it takes a special kind of person to do that.

    It was very difficult at times to put aside my anger but I actually think that having gone through childhood with a mother who suffered depression — even though I didn’t know about her illness till I was 28 — was helpful, because I had seen my father doing his best for her. I also think the most important thing was a certain pig-headedness in my nature; this stubbornness help keep us both going. Also, having lost my mother to the disease, I was doubly sure I did not want to lose my husband too.

  35. How is your relationship with your daughter given how yours was with your mom? It’s great how honest you are with her regarding John’s depression – she will grow up understanding depression hopefully instead of resenting it.

    My relationship with my daughter is a very strong one, more like the strong and easy relationship I always had with my father, than the difficult one I had with my mother. It is simply one of the saving graces of my life.

  36. I would love a cookbook by you too!

  37. The first thing I wrote down when I got to the end of the book was: “What?! No recipes?!”

  38. I was asked why we bought a house in France, and not in Italy:
    We bought a house in France for a lot of reasons, the most basic being financial: old farmhouses inFrance don’t necessarily cost the earth, the way they do in Italy. Our budget and the reality of our lives simply couldn’t have managed a house in Italy. By the time we bought our house, we’d been living in Paris for about four years; Peter and Anna were attending university in Germany, and our budget would never have allowed us to think about flying five people to Italy for vacation PLUS pay a mortgage and taxes and everything else. We wanted to be able to use the house as much as possible, and we knew that if we bought a house in another country, it would mean that we’d be lucky to use it more than a couple of times a year. I wanted a bit of my own dirt to escape to whenever city life started seeming too confining. Italy was really never a consideration, although there’s nothing we like more than to be able to go back and visit our friends there. We went back to Rome this past fall — the first time in eight years that John, Julia and I went back together — and we stayed with friends the whole time, and it was absolute bliss.

  39. For me the food aspect of the book was only important because it provided an anchor, and ritual, to help everyone deal with their pain and difficulty

    • I agree that the food aspect was important as an anchor (the traditions of food fed the soul)…but, since I love to cook, I also would have loved the recipes🙂

    • While I am far from a chef, Paula’s descriptions of food, and the healing found in the kitchen and around the table, made me inspired to buy a cookbook myself and learn a new recipe.

      Anne, did the descriptions of food still make you a wee bit hungry?!

  40. Paula, I admire your strength, which really comes across in your book, as well as John’s support of your writing this book.

    After reading the comments, I have the wool-eees for really fresh, really good tomatoes, and other vegetables. Your wonderful food descriptions are quite enticing.

    • I’m currently having wool-eees for Thin Mints.. I have 24 cases of girl scout cookies in my living room!! Tomatoes would be healthier, of course!

      • I was on a roll craving all the good stuff and you just had to mention Thin Mints! Those are very nice, especially a little chilled.

  41. I agree with everybody, I would love to see the recipes and even the new ones you are cooking in France and in your current life.

  42. You all are writing faster than I can read, LOL!! Taking a 5 minute break to catch up.. approve a couple comments, and then must hit the refresh button..

  43. I really enjoyed the food and how you framed each of your chapters with food and the experiences that both your families and John’s had with it. How early in the process did you decide to structure the book the way that you did?

  44. You are a hero in my book. In this day and age, there are a lot people that when a spouse gets sick or something the other bolts. You stayed through thick and thin.

    • She’s a hero in my book too. My husband went through a nervous breakdown and I was not nearly as patient with him as she was with John. I wanted to shake him and cry “Snap out of it!” every day, for a year or so.

      • You both made it through and you’re still together, and that’s something to be really proud of.

      • Lisa, Don’t sell yourself short – you are amazing.

      • Lisa – I second Mari on this one. Though I think you’re right and Paula’s patience and perseverence in this tough situation can be a rare thing to find.

      • I wish I’d read her book before having to go through my husband’s breakdown.. I would have handled it better, no doubt.

      • Lisa, I felt exactly the same way much of the time. I kept quiet for too long — probably out of fear, that if I yelled or screamed or said the wrong thing, that John might kill himself. It’s a very tricky position to be in. That’s why I think it is EQUALLY important for the caregiver to have help from trained specialists, as it is for the person who is actually suffering the depression. The caregiver needs all the help he or she can get, and it has to be expert help, from people who know what’s what. It is next to impossible to live with somebody who’s sick with depression.

      • lisa, patience is NOT always a virtue. my husband NEEDED to hear me make demands on him to get better, to at least show concrete signs of improvement, and he didn’t really start getting better till i started getting IMPATIENT!

  45. I agree Susan. Paula your book has done a lot to promote fresh foods and vegetables! I wish I had a garden.

    • We grew some green beans last summer.. we don’t have much space in Southern California but I think we’ll do it again.. maybe some tomatoes in pots too.. maybe an herb garden in a windowsill..Paula’s book has inspired me..

  46. Paula, I might have missed this while reading the book, but I was wondering what happened to the other John that was injured the same time your John was shot?

    • I’m really glad you asked about the other John, John Daniszewski, who recovered very well, went on to join the Los Angeles Times as one of their foreign correspondents, and then in recent years, went back to the Associated Press as one of the top editors, in charge of Foreign News. We are all still really close friends, and he and his wife Drusie, will be coming up to hear me talk about the book at the Fairfield (CT) Public Library on Feb. 28. A bunch of us who were all in Warsaw together actually had a wonderful reunion the summer before last at the Daniszewski’s, and it was amazing how close we all still feel, although we’ve all been in different cities and continents in the intervening years. I’m actually having dinner tonight with one couple who were in Poland at the beginning of our tour there, in 1987-1988.

      • It’s amazing how going through the same or similar events can tie people together. I’m glad to hear that John is doing well.

  47. FYI I will post all of Paula’s answers in the body of the post later for easier reference and reading..

  48. I’m a little late on the introduction and please excuse my completely unprofessional name, but I work in Marketing at Riverhead, Paula’s publisher, and wanted to thank all of you for joining in!

    I had the privilege of meeting Paula briefly last week, and she is just as impressive in person as she is on the page.

    Lisa, thank you so much for hosting this chat!

  49. One thing that stuck out for me in the book was when your daughter asked if her daddy was going to commit suicide. Your response was something I didn’t expect and I thought was very brave. I believe you told her he “would try his best not to do it.”

    • That stuck out for me too, because my daughters were very worried when my husband had his nervous breakdown. I remember telling them we had to give Daddy some space and that he needed time to think about things.. all they wanted to know was why Daddy didn’t want to play..

  50. Did anyone else crave asparagus like me while reading this? Luckily, I did have a soup with asparagus in it, and later some fresh asparagus, which I steamed.

    • I craved Italian food in general and wanted to go to Italy to eat it!

      • Well now that Paula mentioned all the cheese she eats in France, above, I retrieved feta from the fridge and am eating it with a fork!

        If you all want to take a trip to Europe and just eat for a week I’m definitely in!

      • I’ll pass on the asparagus but I’m in for the cheese…

    • I’ve been thinking about buying some of the trucked in asparagus from the grocery store, but I keep thinking about the fresh, local asparagus that will be coming in a few months. Yum!

      • Not only did I want to cook and eat while reading the book…I was dying to get on a plane to Italy and walk through those markets.

  51. Paula,
    I thought you had an amazing amount of courage and determination to go through what you did, and I loved the fact that by the end of your journey, there had been so much healing in the life of your family.

  52. I know what you mean, Bermudaonion. I also craved Italian food and posted about that once .

  53. I think this book points out the importance of families sharing meals, which I’m afraid doesn’t always happen in our busy society. That’s the one thing that I’m really proud that we did the whole time our son was growing up – we ate as a family and anyone who was at our home at the time was included. The TV was off and everyone was required to be at the table and be pleasant.

    • We do that, too, although sometimes the tv is on🙂 But I agree about the importance.. there are studies that show when families eat dinner together the kids do better in school, use drugs less, are less promiscuous, etc. etc.

    • I truly think that family meals are hugely important. No matter what. Otherwise, we all just drift off into our own little worlds!

  54. Sadly, I need to leave the discussion – I have to run up to the store and buy some things or my husband and I may never eat tonight (isn’t that ironic???!?!?).

    Paula: it has been a pleasure to chat with you. Thanks for stopping by. I’ll be keeping my eye out for your cookbook😉

    Lisa: THANK YOU for putting this all together – I know it is a lot of work … but it was GREAT!!!

  55. Bermudaonion, I feel the same way. It is the one thing that I never let slip, no matter what is going on. The family always eats together. most of the families I know don’t really do this, but we always do.

  56. Zibilee and Bermudaonion: You’re both right about the importance of family dinners. I didn’t fully appreciate them while still under my parents’ roof, and now living on my own I really miss knowing that no matter what, 6:30pm everyone would be at the table, hands washed tv off, to eat as a family and talk about their day. Even when we were grumpy, it was just what we did.

    Paula, how has your dinner ritual changed since you and John have both been growing and healing?

  57. Here’s a quote I liked:

    “A single bullet started it all….But even a single bullet takes at least two paths: one through the body, the other through life itself. The first path is visible, gory, dramatic. All the same, it is the simple route. The second path is imperceptible, hidden, and therefore far more fraught. The second path cuts through a once-seamless life, splitting it in two; the old life before the bullet and the new life after. Neither doctors nor patient can see the second path, so the wounds it leaves often go unnoticed and untreated. Both can lead to long-term festering.”

  58. Paula, thank you for sharing your story, which will benefit other families struggling with depression.

    I enjoyed this book because it’s really quite triumphant and hopeful, and suggests that we celebrate life and the simple pleasures in life, such as good food and friends.🙂

  59. Paula,
    I was wondering if the electro-shock treatment that John chose to undergo was less stigmatizing where you were versus is it would have been in the U.S.?

  60. I certainly got that impression from the book, yes.

  61. Before I read the book, I never realized depression could be drug resistant.

    • In our situation we were dealing with not only depression but also insomnia and anxiety. They had to get the cocktail of drugs just right and it took a long time for that to happen, but thank goodness it did..

  62. Well, this hour FLEW by!! Thank you all so much for participating. Thank you, Riverhead, for providing the books. And a big thanks to Paula for your time and your insight. This was really wonderful and I think I love the book even more now that we’ve gotten to know you!

  63. This was great! Thanks Lisa, Paula and Riverhead!

  64. I’ve really enjoyed chatting about the book with you all, and can’t thank you enough for reading the book and responding to it so thoughtfully. And if you know of a family going through this sort of trouble, pass the book on to them, especially to the caregiver. John says that from his experience, the one who is sick, probably wouldn’t have the strength to read it…

  65. Neither did I, but I can imagine that it can be disheartening and scary for someone who suffers from a depression that drugs can’t alleviate.

  66. That’s a great idea, Paula, one I will definitely keep in mind. Although I think I’d buy them a new copy, since mine is full of highlighter🙂

  67. Thanks again, everybody. I thoroughly enjoyed this!

  68. Thanks very Much Paula, Lisa, and Riverhead! It’s been a really interesting conversation, thanks for including me!

  69. Thank you all for participating, and with such thoughtful and insightful questions! I can always be reached at lydia.hirt(@)us.penguingroup.com if you have follow up questions (or are dying for a new book!).

    Paula – we can’t thank you enough for so eloquently sharing your experiences.

    Lisa – thank you so much for organizing this.

    Cheers!

  70. Cheers to you, Lydia! Goodnight everybody!

  71. Thanks Paula and Lisa (and Lydia!) for a fabulous discussion of a fabulous book!

  72. I’m so sorry to have missed this discussion last night! Darn sick kids! When I picked up this book, I knew from the first sentence that I was going to enjoy Paula’s writing and by the time I was finished reading the prologue, I was hooked. At that point I was also insanely hungry for asparagus (which I don’t even really like!) and tomatoes from the vine. My immediate and expanded families both very much relate to food in the same way that Paula describes. As much as we love the food, the preparation, time at the table and even the cleaning up after the meal are very much a part of what makes us a family. I can really relate to using that as a basis to hold a family together.

  73. Lisa, It was so much fun to follow along in the conversation last night. Thank you for hosting!

    I must be starting to feel comfortable with my ‘book blogger friends’… I can’t believe I shared something so personal. This no doubt is due to your honesty and openness. Thank you for being you.

  74. […] Lisa from Books on the Brain hosted a chat with Keeping the Feast author Paula Butturini where I said,  ”I really enjoyed the food and how you framed each of your chapters with food and the experiences that both your family and John’s had with it. How early in the process did you decide to structure the book the way that you did?”   Butturini responded: Nicole, I knew from the very first days of trying to write this book that I had to tell our story not only from the negative — because I couldn’t have written it and NOBODY could have read it — but from the positive too, and the food angle just seemed perfectly natural to me. […]

  75. […] February 22nd: Books on the Brain- Reading Series […]

  76. I wish I hadn’t missed it. Looks like a good one.

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