Crave: A Memoir of Food and Longing

Christine O’Brien. St. Martin’s, $28.99 (272p) ISBN 978-1-250-20892-7
In this emotionally fraught memoir, O’Brien writes of growing up following an unorthodox and rigid dietary routine enforced by her mother, a former Miss Missouri. After suffering for years from a variety of undiagnosed medical issues, O’Brien’s mother treated herself with food restrictions instead of medicine, consuming various concoctions of yeast, vitamins, and enzymes. She eventually put the entire family—O’Brien, her three brothers, and her television executive father—on “the Program,” which consisted of “celery juice, blended salad, steamed vegetables, and rice. Breakfast, lunch, dinner.” Her mother taught her and her brothers that meat, dairy, and any processed foods were poison, and soon they feared to eat anything outside the diet. In college, O’Brien felt guilty whenever she ate outside of the program, and became bulimic; as an adult, she married, and tried to follow a more conventional diet yet continued to struggle with food, even after the death of her mother. O’Brien subtly, and with dark humor, weaves in anecdotes of the many celebrities her family encountered, including actress Rachel Roberts, who, with her cat, stayed with her family for two weeks and followed the eating regimen: “After that she will... go home and swallow a fatal number of sleeping pills. We keep the cat.” O’Brien affectingly captures a family’s troubled relationship with food. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 11/12/2018
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