When Julie Powell turned 29, she realized that her life had taken a tragic turn. Married for four years, the transplanted Texan was living in Brooklyn, doing "soul-sucking" temp work. Instead, she writes, "I was supposed to have spent my 20s...hammering away for 90 hours a week at some high-paying, ethically dubious job, drinking heavily and having explosive sex," or maybe working as an artist, rising at noon to "[shake] off the effects of stylish drugs and tragically hip clubs and explosive sex."
As chronicled in Julie & Julia (subtitle: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen), Powell's eureka moment comes when, as a half-joke, she decides to tackle every recipe in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking—and to document her progress in a blog. On Aug. 25, 2002, she blithely begins with Potage Parmentier; one year later—battered but triumphant—she finishes with Paté de Canard en Croute. The darkly funny Powell, her sweet husband and eccentric friends embark on the journey together, and her accounts of learning to dissect live lobsters are interspersed with the sort of gossipy stories heard at her dinner table. Though it's a tribute to Child as well as an account of Powell's transformation from cog to author, Julie & Julia is a book that doesn't overreach. Bracingly original, it's clearly the work of a writer who has reclaimed her soul.