Every bit of Howard’s story is compelling. Her voice caught my attention immediately. She begins and ends her book with pie. The beginning, “I blame pie. If it wasn’t for banana cream pie, I never would have been born.” Her ending takes us full circle. “If not for pie, I never would have made peace with myself. I’m glad my mom made my dad that banana cream pie. I love pie.”
Beth Howard doesn’t have a lot of patience with life. She’s moved from job to job, leaving a lucrative job to make pies in Malibu, California. She met and married Marcus Iken, a German with an English accent, when she was forty. She loved him passionately, but couldn’t cope with his upward-mobility in his job, his long hours and neglect of her needs for attention. She was living in Texas, and they were in the process of marriage mediation while talking about divorce when she received a phone call saying he had died. And, Beth Howard crashed into guilt, pain and sorrow.
It took grief counseling, over a year, and lots and lots of pie for Beth to be able to on. She spent time , traveling, taping a TV pilot about pie, remembering the joy pie brought to people. She baked pies, remembered her past experiences with pies, and offered to judge pies for national competitions and the Iowa State Fair. And, it was returning to her roots in Iowa that brought her some peace.
Everyone recognizes Grant Wood’s painting, American Gothic. The American Gothic House is in rural southeastern Iowa in Eldon. That’s now home-base for Beth Howard, where she rents the American Gothic House, lives in it, and sells pies on the front lawn at The Pitchfork Pie Stand.
Howard’s Making Piece is a beautiful story of finding the courage to live and move on with life, keeping memories while learning to let go of guilt. It’s a story of finding passion. It’s an honest, forth-right account. She sums it up perfectly in her prologue. “You will find my story is a lot like pie, a strawberry-rhubarb pie. It’s bitter. It’s messy. It’s got some sweetness, too. Sometimes the ingredients get added in the wrong order, but it has substance, it will warm your insides and, even though it isn’t perfect, it still turns out okay in the end.” And, she sums it up for all of us who have lost people we love. “It still turns out okay in the end.”
Beth M. Howard blogs at The World Needs More Pie. She can be found on Facebook at The World Needs More Pie.
Making Piece: A Memoir of Love, Loss and Pie by Beth M. Howard. Harlequin. 2012. ISBN 9780373892570 (hardcover), 310p.