Is it possible to write a sidesplitting novel about the breakup of the perfect marriage? If the writer is Nora Ephron, the answer is a resounding yes. For in this inspired confection of adultery, revenge, group therapy, and pot roast, the creator of Sleepless in Seattle reminds us that comedy depends on anguish as surely as a proper gravy depends on flour and butter.
Seven months into her pregnancy, Rachel Samstat discovers that her husband, Mark, is in love with another woman. The fact that the other woman has "a neck as long as an arm and a nose as long as a thumb and you should see her legs" is no consolation. Food sometimes is, though, since Rachel writes cookbooks for a living. And in between trying to win Mark back and loudly wishing him dead, Ephron's irrepressible heroine offers some of her favorite recipes. Heartburn is a sinfully delicious novel, as soul-satisfying as mashed potatoes and as airy as a perfect soufflé.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Following her very public breakup with journalist Carl Bernstein (she discovered he was having an affair when she was seven months pregnant), Nora Ephron turned pain into comedy. Her searing and hilarious semiautobiographical novel is written in a chatty stream of consciousness that’s full of tangents, asides, and even recipes…like one for a key lime pie to throw in your husband’s face. Ephron balances her deep understanding of heartbreak with a light touch and self-deprecation, showing that even when things are rock-bottom bad, it’s still possible to laugh in the face of adversity.
This is one of those not-for-everyone books. I think it just clicks for you, or it doesn't. For me, it did. I like the main character, and love her storytelling. She's pregnant. Her husband is in love with another woman who runs in their social circle. She talks about everything and even throws in a few recipes. Everything is told with a spark and often a bit of snark. It kept me interested.
Some of what was funny is now... eww
I laughed aloud many times because Ephron is a great comedic talent. I certainly cheered for her Rachel when she threw that pie and finally decided to leave the jerk. But the decades since Ephron wrote this one have made calling someone a Chiquita Banana or a Taco pretty offensive. And the descriptions of the domestic staff would never work in the 21st century.
Some of the time-tied references bring nostalgic memory - like the over-use of kiwi to make every meal a little “exotic.” As someone with a mother Ephron’s age, I was quickly transported to empathy for my mother during her divorce from my father that also took place in that era when women were really expected to be Everything and heterosexual gender parity just meant that she cooked, cleaned and parented before and after work.
The era’s slowness — years in psychoanalysis, tv viewing dependent upon what your local stations offered, long lunches, and journalism as a career that could sustain families — I ate that up as I recalled the 20th century pace of things.
Wonderful and unique storytelling but definitely dated in respect to feminism today. The ending won’t necessarily piss you off, but you won’t be satisfied.