Milk Fed by Melissa Broder
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I'm still trying to gather my thoughts on this book. First of all, if
you have any sensitivity around eating disorders, this is not the book
for you. Just don't do it.
The novel starts with Rachel, who has
controlled every calorie in her life to where that's all her life is.
Her therapist is trying to help her see the connection between this
control and the relationship with her mother but she doesn't want to see
Rachel is also Jewish and befriends Miriam, an Orthodox Jew
who works at the froyo place. It goes far past friendship (and it all
starts with Miriam insisting on giving Rachel a topping, a yogurt
topping, it is really hard to talk about this book without a lot of
accidental double entendre.)
There is a lot here about choice and
control, identity and happiness. Much of it is explicit from the
obsessive calorie counting to the 24 food binges to the surprisingly
detailed sexual encounters. But I struggled because Rachel treats others
the way she treats her own body, and I really feel if the narrator were
male we would be calling the novel "problematic" with "consent." Even
as a reader I felt some sense of the author/narrator forcing me into how
she experiences every detail of an event whether that is eating froyo
or a sexual encounter. I imagine the ability to bring the reader so far
into that experience is also a skill in the writing but it was not
always a positive.
Some of her decision making comes from dreams
where magical Rabbis tell her what to do, and there is a golem/maker
dialogue in her head at times.
The last novel I read by this author, The Pisces,
had some weird and wonderful moments, but the narrators of both books
lack the ability to see beyond what she wants to how her actions effect
others. Rachel even does things people have specifically asked her not
to do. I couldn't tell if this is selfishness, a lack of empathy,
recklessness, a little of all of it maybe.
I give a book 4 stars that I didn't particularly enjoy but feel the
author has skill to make me feel that way? There we are, for now.
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