book review: Milk Fed by Melissa Broder
TW: Eating Disorder
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Overview: Rachel struggles with her relationship with her mom and with food and with her sexuality. She doesn't particularly like her job, which is the brand of fancy LA office job some people drool over. She's not impressed by the talent at her agency, and she'd rather be a full time stand-up comic, but no one really cares about her sets. Rachel is wound up in a million directions, but she's working to untangle the knots. Still, progress takes time and is frustrating and causes pain along the way. Overall: 4
Characters: 3.5 Rachel has a very regimented life. Her eating disorder gives her a sense of control as she meticulously plans her day's food out. It gives her a sense of order, as destructive as it is. That is until her world starts to shift, little by little. She works with her therapist to "detox" from her mother, which helps lessen the scarred voices of her childhood with time. It starts to distance her from her shame around food. And then she meets Miriam. As Miriam opens her eyes to the joys that food can bring, Rachel starts to crush, and suddenly having the possibility of love in her life, even if it comes with fear, opens the door to letting the world in a little. While Rachel is a somewhat hard character to really access because she's learned to keep the world at arm's reach, there is plenty of room to relate to Rachel's struggles and triumphs.
Much of the rest of the characters are given through a limited lens since this is a first person perspective novel, and Rachel is on a very narrowly focused journey. There's only a small sliver of these people that come to light, but that's nothing against the book, it's just a consequence of telling a very intimate story.
Plot: 4 The book moves quite quickly which makes a story that is simply about life and so micro feel urgent and sweeping. The chapters are quite short which makes you want to jump to the next and the next, and the plot points unfold in a satisfying fashion. The threads progress as you'd want them to without being predictable, and Rachel, as much as she struggles, grows tremendously. She learns about herself and the world and gains a confidence in her sexuality, character, and boundaries. It makes for a satisfying read even though there was just a bit of a spark that was missing to catapult this to a true 5 star read.
Writing: 4 Broder is a talented writer. Her prose has individual lines that stand out and make you smile or laugh or pause in appreciation, but it's also pleasant and easy to read, allowing you to sail through the story with little effort. The pictures vividly come off the page, and that's all you can ask for in a good novel. I have to once again applaud the pacing here because that's usually not a strong suit of the more literary leaning novels. I also think that Rachel's struggles with her eating disorder and body dysmorphia were well handled and honestly portrayed.
If you're looking for something to read after Yolk by Mary HK Choi, this is worth picking up.
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