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news: minneapolis star tribune reviews “insatiable”

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Title/Topic: Minneapolis Star Tribune Reviews “Insatiable”
Posted On: 10/6/2009
Oct 6 2009, Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN (Minneapolis Star Tribune) – A Minneapolis woman takes an unflinching look at her battles with anorexia. It’s a well written book, for the most part, but sometimes her details make you wish that she had flinched.

Apparently we have not yet had our fill of dire memoirs. Every week more are published, chronicling struggles with alcohol, or a mentally ill parent, or a dying sibling, or a cheating spouse, or, as in the case of a new book by Minneapolis writer Erica Rivera, an eating disorder. With so many of these depressing books to choose from, you might as well spend your time with one that’s well written, as Rivera’s mostly is.

She paints an uncomfortably vivid picture of spiraling into anorexia — the obsession with food, the stronger obsession with being thin, the realization that she is never “thin enough” and won’t be until she is dead.

The book, “Insatiable: A Young Mother’s Struggle With Anorexia” (Berkley, 353 pages, $25.95), opens slowly, with somewhat stilted scenes that apparently are meant to establish the origins of her compulsion: a possibly anorexic and suicidal mother. A father who comforted with food. A brother who binged. A canoe trip where the pretty camp counselors remember their mascara but forget the food. (Lesson learned, says Rivera, that beauty is more important than eating.)

But once her eating disorders take off, the book takes off, too, and Rivera hits her stride. She writes passionately and eloquently about the voices in her head that berate her and belittle her for eating just about anything at all, and the “punishment” she must endure afterward: getting up at 4 a.m. to run long, long distances (70 miles a week); hours on the elliptical trainer or the treadmill; fistfuls of laxatives to expel whatever she has ingested.

Rivera was both an anorexic and a binger, which made for a busy life of starving, eating, purging and exercising. She writes of her intense longing for food — hanging around grocery stores, staring at what she refused to consume — and of her battles of wits with doctors, which she nearly always won, even as she silently pleaded for help.

Rivera is to be applauded for her unflinching look at the deeply unpleasant details of her affliction, but at times she gives us too much information. Yes, it’s crucial to not glamorize the disease. No, it’s not necessary to describe what the toilet looks like after the laxatives kick in.

Her voice is strong, though not consistent. A compelling writer, she’ll go along eloquently for pages, and then suddenly drop in awkward, slangy phrases like “we sucked face” or “popping my cherry.” It’s a bit jarring, especially when it’s abundantly clear that she has the skills to think of a hundred better ways to say things.

Eventually, Rivera begins writing at a suburban coffee shop, takes classes at the University of Minnesota and attends a workshop run by memoirist Natalie Goldberg. This book is the product of all that — a story of survival. In the midst of the great storm of her life, she says, writing is what saved her.



A complete review can be found here:…U

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