I recently read an amazing, inspiring book, and would love to share it with you today. I’ve been waiting for the perfect time to review this particular book. You’ll see what I mean by that a little later.
A few months ago, I came across a post on social media about a new book that would be releasing called Stir: My Broken Brain and the Meals that Brought Me Home. I was immediately drawn to this book not for any other reason except that it was written by an old friend of mine, Jessica Fechtor. I’m not sure how much Jessica remembers, but I distinctly recall several sessions of Stagecrafters Camp (and likely the after-school Stagecrafters, too) with her. She was funny, so smart, and had this crazy curly hair just like me. I always looked up to her because she was a phenomenal actress and everyone seemed to like her.
Fast forward however many years it has been since I’ve last seen her, and I come to find out that she’s written a book! I wasn’t sure what it was about, but I saw that I missed her book signing when she was here in Cleveland, so I immediately ordered Stir online. I wasn’t about to wait to check it out at the library. Plus, there’s something amazing — almost magical — about holding a piece of literature published by someone you know. I now have three friends who have published amazing stories, and I treasure each book as if they were solid gold bars.
I received Stir a couple days later (thank you, Amazon Prime), and delightfully dove right in.
A brief synopsis for you: Jessica suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm — and survived. Through her recovery, her fear of recovery and re-injury, and ultimate tale of survival, she paints a vivid picture of everything she endured — from hospital beds, to surgeries, to relearning to walk, and finally to cooking and enjoying time in the kitchen.
First, let me start by saying this: Stir is one of the most well-written books I’ve read in a long time. Jessica’s words effortlessly floated from the page into my mind. There were no awkward ramblings, no overly wordy descriptions of flower vases or backyards. It was so beautifully written it was difficult to put it down.
Second, this book is a bit heavy. And rightfully so given the experience. Knowing Jessica personally, however, caught me off guard as it unearthed a lot of emotions.
Third, I had a hard time reconciling how food could bring someone home. Until I moved.
I hate to compare my situation with hers — she had a life-threatening illness/injury that could have ended much differently. I merely moved to a new home. Not even in the same ballpark. But what is in the same ballpark is that the kitchen and home-cooked meals — the ones we so voraciously attach to memory and emotion — are at the heart of feeling secure. Jessica couldn’t wait to get back to cooking, baking, and creating after her turn of events. Similarly, while my life was in upheaval, I couldn’t wait to get back to cooking and baking either. I didn’t get what she was saying until I had my own reason to restore order through food.
Cooking, baking, and eating are all an essential part of human existence, and subsequently a big part of me. I enjoy doing these things. Even when I’m rushed and I’m throwing pots and pans and spatulas willy-nilly. Even when I can’t find my favorite santoku knife for days. When we get to sit down, as a family, and eat a dinner I know I created from scratch — that is when I know we are home. It has taken a little over a week of being in our new home for me to be able to find my cooking utensils, dutch oven, and yes, my favorite knife. But we are finally in a position that I can happily cook a meal and feed the bellies of my people. It makes me happy and makes my family (and me) feel secure. These are the meals that are slowly bringing us home.
I couldn’t properly review this book until I had “gotten it.” I got it to an extent while I was reading it. But now I can fully appreciate the power of food that was so crucial to her successful healing and recovery.
Stir is a truly wonderful work of art. Jessica incorporates some of her favorite recipes with her story of survival and new beginnings. She effectively conveys all the emotions she experienced as she navigated the dark and scary road through — and to — recovery. She paints a mouth-watering picture of what it took for her to feel safe and secure — and to ultimately be home. I loved this book. I hope you love it, too.
To Jessica: I love that you shared your story with the world. You wrote an amazing book. And yeah — I get it. I totally, completely get it. Thank you for sharing your story.
If you’re interested in reading Stir: My Broken Brain and the Meals that Brought Me Home by Jessica Fechtor, click here. And by “if you’re interested,” I mean to say: “you should buy this book and read it.”
Be sure to check out Jessica’s blog, too.
Have you read a book that took you a while to “get?” Do you find yourself having an emotional connection to food — either eating it or creating it?