by Melissa Broder
🥠🥠🥠 (3 stars as rated in Miriam and Rachel’s fortune cookies at the Golden Dragon)
I was given a free
advanced review copy of this book by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Relationships for Rachel are… complicated; her relationship with food, her relationship with her mother (which is, incidentally, responsible for her relationship with food), and her now very estranged relationship with Judaism. It is while juggling all of these various complications that Rachel meets Miriam, an young Orthodox Jewish woman who works at her favorite frozen yogurt shop. Miriam, confident and comfortable in all the ways that Rachel is not, is an endless fascination to her. Together, they will explore the lies (and truths) they’ve been fed and decide, respectively, at what point they must finally say, “I’ve had enough.”
I could never tell if other people genuinely believed their own bullshit or not. I felt genuinely perplexed about it— especially at work lunches, but frequently in my nonlunch life too. At times like this, I longed to break the fourth wall, to whisper, Hey, just between us: Is this a performance or is it really what you believe?Melissa Broder, Milk Fed
This is a book about boundaries and this is a book about food-based trauma. If you have issues reading about either, I’d recommend giving this book (and review) a pass. Body dysmorphia is no easy subject matter to read about and I can only imagine the toll it must have taken to put this story to paper. Still, I am rather blown away at how casually this story manages to meander from one trauma to another – from fatphobia to Zionism – while never once abandoning the gravity of either. Broder’s exploration into how much of body dysmorphia is learned as well as her discussions of Israel (as told from the perspective of a Jewish-American woman), and Rachel and Miriam’s respective sexuality, were absolutely brilliantly done. I genuinely felt their pain at so many moments. I only wish I could have experienced a bit more of their joy as well. I think they deserved a bit of it.
The thing about Melissa Broder, is that every sentence she writes feels like it’s being pulled out of my own brain. Except, of course, I never thought to put these words together in any way at all similar to what I just read. The dream sequences in and of themselves were so deliciously bizarre that I am not sure anyone but the genius of Broder herself could have ever conceived of them. I think that’s what makes her writing – to me, at least, so particularly remarkable. I feel like I’m reading my own life, and yet it’s nothing like my life at all. It’s more like what my life might have been had I lived this other person’s life. I am them, and yet I am still me while I’m reading them. And although story was without a doubt the most uncomfortable book I’ve read this year (and I can’t honestly say if I really enjoyed it all that much) I remain so thoroughly blown away by Broder’s skill that I would recommend it (and her prior work, The Pisces) without any hesitation.
✨ Rep in this book: Jewish protagonist, queer romance
✨ Content warnings for this book: body dysmorphia, fatphobia, toxic relationship with a parent, eating disorder, homophobia, abuse
About the Author: Melissa Broder
Melissa Broder is the author of the novels MILK FED (Feb 2, 2021) and THE PISCES, the essay collection SO SAD TODAY, and five poetry collections, including SUPERDOOM: Selected Poems (Summer 2021) and LAST SEXT.
Broder has written for The New York Times, Elle.com, VICE, Vogue Italia, and New York Magazine‘s The Cut.
Poems appear in POETRY, The Iowa Review, Guernica, Fence, et al. She is the winner of a Pushcart Prize for poetry.Broder received her BA from Tufts University and her MFA from City College of New York. She lives in Los Angeles. (copied from the author’s personal website)
Personal note: girl on The Pisces
I gave it a brief shout out in my review, but if you haven’t read Melissa Broder’s The Pisces to anyone that is into trauma-forward contemporary fiction featuring magical realism. The book was so beautifully raw and relatable to me. Even though it did involve a rather graphic relationship with a merman. Look, we’ve all been at a point in our lives where, given the right does of swag, we might be persuaded to fall in love with a mer-person. So don’t judge. Also it’s Pisces season! What more reason do you need!?