Wednesday, April 24, 2019

The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls - Anissa Gray

Summary: The Mothers meets An American Marriage in this dazzling debut novel about mothers and daughters, identity and family, and how the relationships that sustain you can also be the ones that consume you.

The Butler family has had their share of trials—as sisters Althea, Viola, and Lillian can attest—but nothing prepared them for the literal trial that will upend their lives.

Althea, the eldest sister and substitute matriarch, is a force to be reckoned with and her younger sisters have alternately appreciated and chafed at her strong will. They are as stunned as the rest of the small community when she and her husband Proctor are arrested, and in a heartbeat the family goes from one of the most respected in town to utter disgrace. The worst part is, not even her sisters are sure exactly what happened.

As Althea awaits her fate, Lillian and Viola must come together in the house they grew up in to care for their sister’s teenage daughters. What unfolds is a stunning portrait of the heart and core of an American family in a story that is as page-turning as it is important.

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My Review: This book was equal parts difficult and easy to read. It was difficult because the subject matter is raw, and it feels realistic and messy, much like real-life families and family relationships. Even if you have the best family and family relationships around, having a family is complicated. There are so many different relationships, and these relationships are ever-shifting and changing as life shifts and change. The Butler family has had its share of difficulties, maybe more than the average family, and so it’s difficult to read because some of these difficulties are really hard. It’s easy to read, though, because although I hadn’t personally undergone the situations that the Butler sisters had faced, they were very relatable. I also really appreciated that much like real people, the characters in this book had different facades for different people. Maybe they appeared successful whereas underneath they were really suffering; maybe they appeared to have solid relationships whereas in reality they were suffering…like I said. Just like real people. If nothing else, I think these kinds of characters help the reader realize that no matter what someone’s outside is telling them, there is always more to the story. So in that way, it was easy to read.

I’ve decided that I really enjoy books that have multiple points of view. I don’t know if I always prefer a first person narrator, but a well-done first person narrator has the potential to draw you into their lives and help you understand the situation in a way that is almost impossible to do in any other type of writing. This book had different points of view from each of the sisters in the different chapters, which is a style I also like if it’s done well. In this case it was, so I felt like it was easy to relate to the situations and see where each woman was coming from. Also, I enjoy the concrete organization of being able to see whose viewpoint it is by the title of the chapter. It simplifies things, and allows a reader to stop mid-way and pick up later and if the voice isn’t immediately apparent (by maybe an accent or a specifically-written prose style), the chapter title allows one to jump right back in. I don’t always get uninterrupted reading time (so sad), so I do appreciate small crutches that help me stay in the story and keep up with what is going on, even if I have to leave it temporarily.

This story is a somewhat tragic one, and there are many people who were hurt in various ways. Like I mentioned above, this family has definitely had its fair share of struggles, maybe more than most. I found it interesting that this became an almost-generational thing, whereas the older generation would pass down the struggles to the next and so on and so on until the cycle was broken for one reason or another. I do believe that people are striving to do their best, but sometimes it’s hard to break out of the mold that you’ve been put into your entire life.

There were a lot of issues to be dealt with in this book, since the women narrating it had a lot of issues themselves. It’s not a long book, and because of that I think some of the issues were not able to be addressed or dealt with in a manner that maybe would have benefited the reader and the story. Almost every character had something that needed to be resolved, and obviously this is pretty much impossible to deal with as not everything can be neatly wrapped up in a bow, but I do think that some resolutions were glossed over and others not even mentioned in the end. I did enjoy this book, though, and recommend it for fiction readers who aren’t afraid to look at some tough issues and tough family relationships. It was good, realistic fiction that I think gives the reader a good glimpse into the lives of others, which I always think is important for learning empathy and understanding in humankind in general.

My Rating: 3.5 Stars

For the sensitive reader: There is language, some discussion of sex, and some possibly triggering situations involving abuse.

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