Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Man Who Couldn't Eat - Jon Reiner

Summary: “I’m a glutton in a greyhound’s body, a walking contradiction, in the grip of the one thing I can’t have—food.”

Food is not just sustenance. It is memories, a lobster roll on the beach in Maine; heritage, hot pastrami club with a half-sour pickle; guilty pleasures, a chocolate rum-soaked Bundt cake; identity, vegetarian or carnivore. Food is the sensuality of a ripe strawberry or a pork chop sizzling on the grill. But what if the very thing that keeps you alive, that bonds us together and marks occasions in our lives, became a toxic substance, an inflammatory invader? In this beautifully written memoir, both gut-wrenching and inspiring, award-winning writer Jon Reiner explores our complex and often contradictory relationship with food as he tells the story of his agonizing battle with Crohn’s disease—and the extraordinary places his hunger and obsession with food took him.

The Man Who Couldn’t Eat is an unvarnished account of a marriage in crisis, children faced with grown-up fears, a man at a life-and-death crossroads sifting through his past and his present. And it shows us a tough, courageous climb out of despair and hopelessness. Aided by the loving kindness of family, friends, and strangers and by a new approach to food, Reiner began a process of healing in body and mind. Most of all, he chose life—and a renewed appetite, any way he could manage it, for the things that truly matter most.
Summary and Cover Photo from Indiebound.org. Book given free for review.

My Review: The Man Who Couldn't Eat is Jon Reiner's personal story about returning home from an uneventful grocery shopping trip only to have his stomach explode. As he struggles to heal after a poorly performed surgery, he is put on TPN. He is sent home to spend months living without eating or drinking - absolutely nothing by mouth. His deep surgical wound is left open and covers his gut. The battle to survive takes Jon on an emotional roller-coaster through denial, anger, depression, and finally acceptance. The book chronicles a full year of medical drama, yet it is so much more than the tale of one man's struggle to survive.

Entering this book allows the reader to journey through Jon's past by means of his taste buds. The delicious descriptions of the food of his past are at such odds with the grotesque descriptions of his present medical procedures. It's the ultimate oxymoron, leaving you salivating and yet nauseated in one swoop.

Much admiration goes to Jon's ability to tell it like it is. He does not play the victim, instead fully admits to his selfish behavior. As his family falls apart, he takes his share of the blame and doe not sugar-coat any of it. Jon's battle becomes not only one to overcome the illness but to also reclaim his family.

In the end, this tale is one of balance - the yin and the yang. The continuous balancing act while juggling the needs of a family, the struggles of a career (or lack there of) and the needs of his health crisis is thoroughly documented. Jon's ability to rediscover what is important in life is inspiring. His tale is laced with religion, but it is his ultimate decision to concur that allows him to reclaim his life. There is no glossing over the facts to bring the story to a neat conclusion. Jon continues to struggle to balance his wants with his needs, especially in terms of food. This conflict leads to a stimulating read.

My Rating: 4 Stars

To Sum It Up: One man's conquest to discover the yin and yang of life through his stomach.


Jon Reiner said...

Thank you for this insightful and lucid review of my book, The Man Who Couldn't Eat. Among the reviews I've received, this ranks high for depth of thought and power of expression. Your blog is fantastic. -- JR

Sweet Em said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MindySue said...

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Emily that was so awesome!


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