{Review} Recipes for a Beautiful Life: A Memoir in Stories

Once upon a time, Henry and I decided to make a go of it in Western Massachusetts. Alice was just a baby then, maybe 18 months old, and I was seven months pregnant. Henry found a job in Greenfield, twenty minutes north of Northampton, and I left it up to him find an apartment. He found a newly renovated one bedroom on Bank Row, a few doors down from Main Street, facing the town green and around the corner from our favorite restaurant, Hope and Olive.

On a blustery January day, I loaded Alice and my extremely pregnant self into our little green Mazda protege, the trunk and backseat bulging with stuff that was too small to go into the moving truck, and off we went to Greenfield, where we met Henry and my mother outside our new apartment.

That was the beginning of the longest, most amazing year of my life. I look back and can hardly believe it was only a year. It feels like a lifetime. Reading Rebecca Barry’s memoir, Recipes for a Beautiful Life,  that year comes rushing back. The move from big city to small city, surrounded by farmland, being poor in money but rich in friendship and love, and the natural phenomenons of the world that make you eternally grateful to be alive. Each story in Barry’s memoir is redeemed by the kind of self-discovery that only comes when nothing’s easy.

Be grateful. 

Hold space. 

Open your heart. 

Think small. 

Think big. 

This is hard, Barry realizes, but this is good.

Her husband tells her the book she plans to write, the book she did write, sounds like a lot of complaining. He’s not wrong but for every complaint, every whine, every “woe is me,” there is redemption. There is also much humor because one does not survive motherhood in the early years without a sense of humor and humility.

This is not a parenting book, but those who are in the thick of early motherhood will appreciate this book, this Not-A-How-To-How-To collection of stories that expose the sordid details of marriage and parenthood, the ones that lie behind the scenes of a life that seems romantic and wonderful and magical to everyone else. And the stories are funny because they are true. I know Rebecca Barry. I am Rebecca Barry. I know dozens of Rebecca Barrys. We Rebecca Barrys dream a world of farm shares, starlit summer skies, neighborhood coffeeshops, family nearby, friends at the ready with wine and cheese and bread and company.

Our dream ended after a year and we slunk back to New York, slightly depressed but also slightly relieved to be not-poor again. Despite our own failed attempt, I cheered Rebecca Barry on and willed her to stick it out, see it through, if only so I could live vicariously through her for as long as the book lasted.

Recipes for a Beautiful Life: A Memoir in Stories by Rebecca Barry is out from Simon & Schuster in April 2015. 

{I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book for review purposes. This post contains affiliate links.}

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