Beth Howard, former Seattle resident, web producer and amateur baker, wrote a book about baking pies. Not a particularly good book, apparently. Then her husband--whom she was about to divorce--died of a heart attack. Devastated, Howard set out, in their RV, on a cross-country journey of self-discovery, ending up in rural Iowa at nothing less than the actual "American Gothic" house, where she now lives.
Her revised book, Making Piece:A Memoir of Love, Loss and Pie, is getting considerable attention during her promotional visit to Seattle this week, but it strikes me as a maudlin attempt at autobiography-as-therapy.
Kate McDermott, the reigning authority on pie, tells me she has a great deal of respect for Howard as a baker and as a person. But a book asks the reader to have respect for the author's ability as a writer, and this is where Howard stumbles. Her peregrinations fall into the category of self-absorbed confessionals, like Barbara Elaine Singer's Living Without Reservations (same damn RV). Worse yet, Howard is ill-served by her publisher, the romance-novel house Harlequin, whose blurb for Making Piece says the book "powerfully shows how one courageous woman triumphs over tragedy." Except that someone forgot to hire a copy editor.
"He [a doctor in Portland] pullout out a glass vile, handed it to me and ran out of the room."
In case you weren't paying attention, the doctor then tells Howard,
"Once you open the vile, swallow the pill as fast as you can."
How can one excuse this? Good Lord. Starting with the tortured title, Making Piece simply makes no sense. "A Romance for Every Mood," you say? For shame, Harlequin, for shame. Piece be with you.