The Appetites of Girls
A wisely-observed and beautifully-wrought debut novel, Pamela Moses’s THE APPETITES OF GIRLS (Berkley Trade Paperback; June 2, 2015; $16.00) traces the lives of four young women—college roommates—as they find strength to overcome struggles that have defined them since adolescence and eventually grow into the women they are meant to be. Told from each woman’s distinct vantage point, their interlocking stories revolve, subtly and compulsively, around food and the dangerous preoccupation with body image that so often shapes women’s perceptions and actions from an early age. This “terrific novel…exposes and illuminates the ways in which women use food as a proxy weapon in battles with others and themselves,” says Martha Moody, bestselling author of Best Friends. “And, most hauntingly, it shows how even young women with clear advantages…must struggle to recognize and accept their own intrinsic powers.”
An intimate baby shower for Ruth reunites the former roommates and provides the narrative springboard for each woman’s girlhood story and the memories that have shaped her since. Plump and self-doubting as a child, Ruth is raised by a mother who uses food as affection as well as control. Opal longs for attention from her nomadic single mother and determines to achieve it by imitating her mother’s use of feminine wiles with men. Francesca grows up in a Park Avenue penthouse with a mother obsessed with appearances; and Setsu, adopted as a toddler from an orphanage in Japan, shows a rare talent as a violinist but is too ready to sacrifice her gifts to please a jealous older brother.
When the four women are assigned as suitemates at Brown, they seem to come from different worlds. But from their friendship—which grows discordantly at times and tentatively at first—Ruth, Opal, Francesca, and Setsu find strength to triumph individually as well as together.
“An important book for our times—and for our friends, daughters, and ourselves” says Sarah Pekkanen, author of The Best of Us. As it delves into the complex relationship between woman and food, this impressive debut novel explores deeper issues about the challenges all women face as they navigate through life.
I did not really find any of the girls childhood stories that interesting. However, after wading through the first about 110 pages, the story picks up to the present where the girls are together. It does get a little better but still not enough to make me excited. In fact, the details of this book are not that memorable and neither are the girls. Also this is another book that suffers from the characters and food. Food does not always make things better. Whether it is a food memory or associated food scent connected to emotions. If the story is not more grounded with intriguing characters that become more like friends than food can not save it. Although I did see a small glimmer of hope in this book and do expect that there will be good things to come from new author, Pamela Moses.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Pamela Moses grew up in New Jersey. She attended Brown University and received a master’s in English from Georgetown. After graduating, she moved to Manhattan to teach English at a girls’ school. She now lives outside New York City with her husband and two children. The Appetites of Girls is her first novel.