cover image Empty: A Memoir

Empty: A Memoir

Susan Burton. Random, $27 (288p) ISBN 978-0-8129-9284-7

This American Life producer Burton debuts with an unfiltered discussion of how binge eating and anorexia plagued her throughout her adolescence and into her 20s and turned her into a “desperate wreck.” Around the time she entered puberty, Burton began worrying about getting fat; she started controlling her portions and took “perverse pleasure in [her] smallness.” Burton ably recreates her anxiety-filled youth, when she struggled with her parents’ divorce, her mother’s alcoholism, and with eating disorders. She offers raw descriptions of binging late at night in her kitchen as a teen, eating ice cream, muffins, and power bars to fill a void (“This was tearing things, a frenzy”), then, later in life, starving herself to the point that she developed osteoporosis, all in an effort to feel “light” and “empty.” Burton traces her issues with food back to her grandmother, who obsessed about weight, but offers no easy answers about what ultimately drove her own behavior. Physically healthy now, she writes that she remains “inflexible, paranoid, and self-loathing about food,” and is still on the road to recovery, aided by therapy, writing, and family support. Burton convincingly conveys the desperation and darkness of eating disorders. (June)