Heartburn is a story about heartache. The story takes place over the course of a few weeks starting when Rachel—our main character, is seven months pregnant with her second child. She talks about how the worst part of pregnancy has been the heartburn. We talk about heartburn in the medical sense and the metaphorical sense. In the first few sentences we learn that Rachel’s husband is having an affair and has been for the past six months. The betrayal—it makes her heart burn. The pregnancy gave her actual heartburn.
Released in 1982, this book was based on Nora Ephron’s own life—the main character is even a writer like she is, albeit a “cookbook writer”. She hated it when people called here merely a cookbook writer because to her it was so much more than that—she wrote stories about her real life and happened to include recipes. This book was written in the exact same style, by the way. Stories of her real life punctuated with recipes for the noteworthy foods that they’d eaten: a peach pie on vacation or a roast chicken. My favorite was the list of different types of potatoes that one eats at different points during the progression of a relationship. Crispy potatoes to serve two in the beginning and mashed potatoes for one at the inevitable end.
This story could have been so much more bitter and angry and sad than it turned out to be and it would have been completely understandable—and there’s totally a market for that, too. But Nora Ephron took every opportunity to expose the humor in the situation. Like when she drove back home after he’d begged her to come back, “’Maybe he’s missed me’, I thought as we came around the corner. ‘Maybe he’s come to his senses. Maybe he’s remembered he loves me. Maybe he’s full of remorse’. There was a police car parked in front of the house. ‘Maybe he’s dead’, I thought. That wouldn’t solve everything, but it would solve a few things. He wasn’t, of course. They never are. When you want them to die, they never do.’ Nora Ephron’s wit is savage.
This wasn’t a perfect novel by any means. I’d probably give it 3.5 stars out of 5 just because I was having trouble relating to any of the characters or the world in which they lived. But it was really great and fun and had me laughing out loud numerous times. And I can’t recommend the audiobook enough—it’s narrated by the one and only Meryl Streep who starred in the film adaptation of Heartburn in 1986. And she reads the book as only she can.
Just for fun, here’s a trailer for the film:
For the month of March we’re reading a book that I’m simultaneously thrilled and nervous about. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. It’s being made into a television series on Hulu featuring some of my favorite actresses. Also, on the Call Your Girlfriend podcast this week, Aminatou said that she was reading it for the first time and Anne mentioned that now must be such a terrifying moment in history to be experiencing this book as a first timer. And I was like, “Oh, great. Cool. V excited about this.” But we’ll make it through and I can’t waaaaait to get to discuss it in our book club. If you want to get in on our virtual book club discussions, message me on Facebook and get in on this action!
What do you think? What have you read by Nora Ephron?