Cleaving: A Story of Marriage, Meat, and Obsession will surprise readers who know Austin native Julie Powell only as the winsome novice chef played by Amy Adams in the film version of Julie & Julia, Powell’s near-brilliant first book. Images of that Julie—and of the saltier blogger from the original text—are thoroughly excised by the libidinous shrew found here. This Julie cheats wantonly on her husband, Eric, for two years, until he takes on a girlfriend in retaliation. To gain perspective—and material for a second book—she apprentices herself for six months to a master butcher, finding the work so therapeutic that she embarks on a whirlwind meat-cutter’s tour of Argentina, Ukraine, and Tanzania before returning home to Eric and an uneasy, if loving, reconciliation. The Julie in these pages does too much drinking, copulating, and agonizing, sometimes in cringe-worthy detail: Both marriage and book are messy and nearly undone by excess. But perhaps immoderation is worth tolerating in a promising writer and an ultimately decent person. Little, Brown, $24.99
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