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!

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Winter Reading Series: KEEPING THE FEAST Discussion Questions

Hello Winter Readers!

This month we’re reading Keeping the Feast by Paula Butturini, a beautiful and inspiring memoir of food, depression, marriage, and family that took us on a journey from the dinner table in her childhood home in Connecticut all the way to the open air markets in sun-drenched Italy.  We are so excited to have Paula here in real time answering any questions you might have on Monday, February 22, at 5 pm PST (which is my time zone- she lives overseas but will be in Washington, DC, on the day of our discussion).  If you’ve read Keeping the Feast, or are curious about it, please mark your calendars and join us as we discuss the book with Paula!

Here is a synopsis of the book, followed by a few discussion questions:

Keeping the Feast is a story of love, trauma, and the personal and marital healing that can come from a beautiful place and its simple traditions. It’s a memoir about what happens when tragedy and its psychological aftershocks strike a previously happy marriage and a couple must stubbornly fight to find its bearings. Most significantly, it is a book about the power of one of the most fundamental rituals – the daily sharing of food around a family table. Food — the growing, shopping, preparing, cooking, eating, talking, sharing and memory of it — becomes the symbol of a family’s innate desire to survive, to accept and even celebrate what falls its way.

SO READERS- let’s get the discussion started! These are just a few questions to get you thinking- you don’t have to answer them all. Please feel free to add your own questions, and respond to each others answers, too.

1. What was your overall view of the book?  Did you enjoy it?  Was it what you expected?

2.  Were there parts of this book that were difficult to read?

3.  What aspect of the book did you enjoy most?

4.  John and Paula’s marriage was brand new when tragedy struck.  It might have been easier to leave than stay, yet they got through it.  Would you have had the strength to stay, given the circumstances?

5.  What role do you think Rome and rituals played in their recovery?

6.  What role does food play in your family?  Do you live to eat or eat to live?

7.  While reading Keeping the Feast, did you ever get frustrated with Paula?  With John?

8.  Paula had firsthand experience with depression through her relationship with her mother before it overtook her husband.  Were you surprised that she handled her husband’s bouts with depression the way she did, given her history?

We can’t wait to hear your thoughts on Keeping the Feast. Thanks for reading along with us.  And don’t forget to join us on February 22nd for our discussion with Paula!

Keeping the Feast – Winter Reading Series Announcement!

Ah, winter.  For me it is the most perfect time of year for reading.  Something about cold weather and short days makes me all snugglish, and then add to that a warm mug of something yummy, a fuzzy sweater, a cozy chair.  What else completes that idyllic mental picture better than a book, right?

Have I got one for you…

I’ve teamed up again with Mari from Bookworm with a View for a Winter Reading Series!  We had so much fun with our Summer Series that we thought we’d do it again.

Our first selection is a perfect winter read called Keeping the Feast: One Couple’s Story of Love, Food and Healing in Italy by Paula Butturini.  Love?  Food?  Italy?? If you’re anything like me, that sounds really good, and vaguely familiar.. but wait, there’s more to it..

From the author’s website, here is the synopsis:

Keeping the Feast traces the path of a single bullet that upended the lives of an American couple reporting on the fall of Communism in 1989. Ultimately, though, it is a memoir that celebrates the healing to be found in the sharing of food, three times a day, among friends and family in Italy and France.

A bullet?  NOT exactly what you were expecting, eh?  Well, it is the time of year for surprises!

Ok, so here’s the deal.  I have 20 COPIES  of Keeping the Feast available for our reading series, compliments of Riverhead Books!  We’ll get the books out to everyone who’s interested in participating. Then 20 of us can discuss it here, and Paula will join in!  Think of it as a book club of sorts, except without the wine.  Well, you can have wine in front of your computer if you like.  Who’s gonna stop you?

E-mail me with your address (even if you think I have it!) to enter the drawing for a free copy of the book.  Put “Keeping the Feast” in the subject line, but please only request the book if you are interested in coming back for the  discussion.  Be sure it sounds like a book you’d enjoy.

Click here to read a full description of the book. Keeping the Feast will be in stores on February 18th, 2010, and the discussion will take place here in February – with the author participating ‘live’ for an hour!  I will post details for the discussion about a week before along with an email reminder to those who’ve won the book.

(Oh, and thank you to Sasha & the Silver Fish for reminding me to say that this is open to US/Canada residents only.  I apologize to our friends in other countries.)

I hope you’ll join us!

Book Club Meeting for Eat, Pray, Love: Wrap-Up

A few Books on the Brain readers, including Danica, Gentle Reader, Tara, and others, some of whom left comments HERE and HERE and HERE, asked if I would post about the Eat, Pray, Love discussion at my book club meeting.  We had an excellent meeting, with 8 of our 12 members attending.  The food was great.. mini pizzas from Trader Joes, a big pasta salad, homemade calzones, wine and chocolate.  Mmmmm.  

We started off the discussion by asking what was each person’s favorite part of the book.  Our hostess, who is relatively new to the group, said the cutest thing.  Her favorite part was when the author, Elizabeth Gilbert, was at the ashram in India and talked about wanting to be The Quiet Girl In The Back Of The Room, because every time she leaves a book club meeting, she feels like she’s talked too much, and she wanted us all to know that she doesn’t think her opinions and comments are any more important than any of ours, and she wanted to apologize if anyone felt she went on and on too much, and she just really likes to talk, and she loves the book club, and and and..  finally her sister said, “Ok!  We get it!  You can stop talking now!”  We all had a good laugh.

Everyone liked certain aspects of the book.  We agreed that Gilbert is talented and that the book was well written.  One member, who I know didn’t really care for the book, said good things about it before she went on her rant about “paying for Gilbert’s therapy by buying this book”.  A couple of us were critical of the India section and the “fake God moment” when she declares she is one with God and actually IS God.  We all thought there were a few coincidences that were probably mostly BS and just thrown in because she was writing a book.. like when she was praying about her nephew and his nightmares and learned later they had abruptly stopped at the same time.. or when she wrote a letter to God about finalizing her divorce, and then suddenly she gets the call that her husband finally signed the papers.  

Many of us thought she could have filled us (the reader) in a bit more about why her divorce was so horrible.. to me it was hard to work up any real sympathy for her because she doesn’t say why it was so awful, so so so hard, really really hard (WHY?)  Divorce sucks, but in the big scheme of things.. it’s not like having cancer or losing a child or whatever.  We all thought she needed some perspective.  If the worst thing that ever happens to you is something that really isn’t all that horrible, it’s still the worst thing ever TO YOU.  But stop trying to convince me (without actually TELLING me) that it was SO BAD, so horrible and hard.  On a funny side note, Liz Gilbert has now married her Brazilian lover Felipe, who she met in Bali, and her next book is about marriage.  BWAAHHAAHAHAHAHA!

 Anyway.   Overall I’d say the book was liked more than disliked.  I asked members to give me a “wrap up” of what they thought and got a few responses.  Here they are:

From TD:  EPL was a well-written, somewhat comical memoir of Gilbert’s travels and search for spiritualism and balance.  As the book progressed, I could see that she changed from a self-absorbed needy woman to a more self-controlled, happier person.

I would rate it 3.5.

From DD: Rating: ***

In total, I did not hate or love the book.  I could not relate to Gilbert’s depression, so I had little sympathy while reading about her divorce trauma.  If all of her whining was removed from the book, I would’ve liked the book better.  Gilbert is a good writer and has a fun way of describing her adventures in all three countries.  I came away learning a little about Italian cuisine and language, Indian ashrams and meditation, and the culture of Bali – a plus.  Some of her events were a little contrived and far-fetched, but I guess it was felt that they were needed to “spice up” the book.

From KD: 4*’s

Gilbert’s travels were very educational.  EPL is a wonderful book to read for those who have an open mind about someone who has mental illness. Gilbert wants to get well (without drugs) and find her inner peace. A beautiful book!!!

From EL: I would give it 4 stars.

Elizabeth Gilbert is a witty writer and very easy to read.  I enjoyed reading about her personal journey, as well as the cultures, geography of the places she visits.  She was especially informative about meditation and the ashram in the India section.  Readers will love the book if you can get past two things: 1) she is often whiney and self absorbed, especially about her failed relationship with David (bleh!), and 2) since she is upfront with the reader that the trip (and thus book) was conceived before she began her journey, the reader may often feel like some of the events that she experiences are fake and contrived.  Otherwise, I really did love the book. 

From JT:

I enjoyed it although I was ready to leave India- it got a little long and I felt the author was so self-absorbed on and off throughout.  I enjoyed Italy most of all- I like her writing style and she is very likable and fun.

From SA:  I can’t say I loved or hated this book – my feelings about it fall somewhere in the middle.  On one hand, like many working mothers, I had a bit of a problem relating to the author, her life, and the premise that she “needed” to spend one year away from the States (in order to heal herself and cure her depression).  On the other hand, I did enjoy and appreciate her wit, her obvious intelligence, and her talent as a writer.  While reading the book, I couldn’t help but reflect on my own life, dreams, disappointments, and future goals. I think that was a good side effect of this book, and it is not something I can say about most of our other book-club picks. So, I don’t regret reading it. But I’ll be careful about who I recommended it to in the future.  4 Stars