Serious Reads: Making Piece, by Beth M. Howard

Beth M. Howard was approaching two milestones on August 19, 2009: her seventh wedding anniversary and the finalization of her divorce. Her husband Marcus was on vacation in Portland without her, and in just a few hours he would sign their divorce papers. They were still in love, but marriage had become too difficult. As a high-powered executive he traveled all the time, taking her with him on adventures but also uprooting her life multiple times. She was ready for a new chapter of her life. And then he died.

Marcus's sudden death, caused by a heart defect he'd had since birth, racked Howard to the core. Unable to cope with the grief of losing her husband, coupled with the guilt of feeling as though her insistence on divorce had killed him from heartbreak or stress, she spiraled. She stayed with friends for months on end, grieving so deeply that she thought she might never recover. But she managed to eventually pull herself out of that grief, and she describes her healing process in her memoir, Making Piece: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Pie.

Where does pie come into this story, you might ask? Howard had been an avid pie baker her whole life, to the point that she had quit a quite lucrative job at an internet start-up to work full-time in a Malibu pie shop several years before Marcus's death. During her mourning process, she quickly realized that pie was the only activity keeping her from losing control. So she set out to discover how other people created and served pie.

She embarked on a documentary road trip to diners and fairs across the country in search of delicious homemade pies. She discovered secret recipes, was chosen to judge several pie contests, and met dozens of welcoming and amazing people along the way. She includes the recipes for some of her favorite pies in the back of the book—French silk, banana cream, apple, peach.

Howard eventually found herself in her home state of Iowa, where she now lives in the famous American Gothic House. She runs a pie stand out of her front yard, selling pie to tourists and neighbors, and has found some peace. This memoir is wrenching from the first page—Howard holds nothing back about her grieving process, sharing even the darkest moments with the reader. Though this was at first a bit of a turn-off—I thought it was a light read about pie!—I was soon flipping through the pages eagerly, hoping for the moments when things started to look up for Howard. Mourning the loss of a spouse is so deeply personal, but Howard honors the reader with an honest recounting of her struggle. Making Piece is beautifully written and, though sad, ultimately hopeful.

About the Author: A student in Providence, Rhode Island, Leah Douglas loves learning about, talking about, reading about, and consuming food. Her work has also been featured in Rhode Island Monthly Magazine.