Book Review: Stir by Jessica Fechtor

Stir by Jessica Fechtor
Stir by Jessica Fechtor

Title: Stir: My Broken Brain and the Meals that Brought Me Home

Author: Jessica Fechtor

Genre: Memoir, Autobiography, Food, Foodie, Cooking

Publisher: Avery

Published: June 23, 2015

Page Amount: 288 pages

Blurb From GoodreadsAt 28, Jessica Fechtor was happily immersed in graduate school and her young marriage, and thinking about starting a family. Then one day, she went for a run and an aneurysm burst in her brain. She nearly died. She lost her sense of smell, the sight in her left eye, and was forced to the sidelines of the life she loved. Jessica’s journey to recovery began in the kitchen as soon as she was able to stand at the stovetop and stir. There, she drew strength from the restorative power of cooking and baking. Written with intelligence, humor, and warmth, Stir is a heartfelt examination of what it means to nourish and be nourished.

Why Read: Why I read this book really doesn’t have anything to do with food, or to do with brain aneurysms. It has to do with reading as a whole. If many of you readers have noticed, I’ve been slightly on hiatus for the past couple months, years (give or take centuries) – and I couldn’t get myself back into that reading haze that so dominated my life last year. But thanks to Erik Larson and Jessica Fechtor, I’m back! (Even if it was all by random chance and choosing a Netgalley randomly)

Review: I picked up ‘Stir’ not really knowing what to expect. All I could remember was that it was a food memoir of some kind, but nothing distinct really came soaring to my mind. Four hours later… let’s just say I won’t be forgetting it anytime soon. Fechtor’s voice is distinctly hers and while reading the passages, I felt torn between being wrapped in the warm comforting blanket of cookery and somewhat unexpected tears as hospital scenes came and went. To be clear: that’s a good thing.

The switching between ‘flash-backs’ and the current struggle of surgery recovery strike a chord, where I was at once heartened and then thrust back into the reality of ICUs. I imagine it must have been a similar experience while recovering from surgery, alternating between one good day and another, where suddenly an utensil is no longer usable. If so, Fechtor uses the voice to such effect that it cannot be anything other than genuine.

Including the recipes is a stroke of genius and I found myself penning down notes for oatmeal cookies and sweet-potato pancakes while simultaneously running through my kitchen stock, wondering if I have all the ingredients necessary for Irish Soda Bread. I do not in fact, have all the ingredients. The directions are filled with touching anecdotes, and I can’t help but be delighted when a recipe appears on a new page, totally unexpected. The tone is such that without sounding too ‘touchy-feely’, I feel like someone is taking me down a pathway of their life experiences, bidding me to stop as I watch a particular memory or a particular recipe.

Reading the hospital scenes was difficult, even challenging. Simply because of the brutal honesty, I found myself teary-eyed and imagining a family watching their daughter head into brain surgery without warning. The rehabilitation and recovery process was just as difficult, and as Fechtor experienced the ups and downs of life – how can a reader not think back on their own life and be ever the more grateful for the small abilities? Perhaps it seems sentimental of me, but I found it touching in a way that seemed to combine the very opposite feelings of happiness and crushing sadness.

I have to give this book 5 stars. Not only because I enjoyed the writing style, the recipes and the scope of it all, but also because I see it as one of those books that I imagine thinking back on for a long while. Really anyone can read it, whether you are a self-proclaimed “foodie”, or a memoir-lover looking for their next read. After the fact warning: it will make you want to cook.

Rating: 5/5 Stars

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