The Appetites of Girls

Pamela Moses. Putnam/Amy Einhorn, $26.95 (384p) ISBN 978-0-399-15842-1
Moses’s debut is perfectly timed for summer—it’s a beach read following the lives of four coeds who begin rooming together at Brown University in 1993. The author delves into the friends’ backstories through multiple point-of-view switches, mining their emotionally charged relationships with family, men, and food with clear-eyed prose. Moses focuses on college and the years after graduation, but a baby shower reunion in 2003 bookends the story. Ruth is overweight, insecure, and sheltered by her Jewish family. She struggles as much with food as she does her mother’s expectations and boundary issues. In Opal’s opaque and unfortunately undeveloped story, her mother’s wanderlust and immaturity have disastrous consequences for her 11-year-old, whose subsequent fear of sexuality results in a growing asceticism. Francesca uses food to deal with her anger over her parents’ neglect and their obsession with keeping up appearances, eventually channeling it into a magazine career and a no-strings relationship policy. And Setsu, an adopted Japanese girl, becomes a musical prodigy, but her adopted older brother, also a prodigy, has larger appetites and slowly consumes her confidence and her parents’ attention, leaving her susceptible to a controlling boyfriend. Moses employs a familiar literary structure, following four women’s friendship in college and beyond, which helps turn her story into comfort reading. Agent: Matthew Bialer, Greenberger Associates. (July)
Reviewed on: 05/26/2014
Release date: 06/26/2014
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