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It's 1984. Alice Forrester is a twenty-five-year-old anorexic who has just experienced heart failure when she is taken to the emergency room of Seaview Hospital, renowned for its eating disorders clinic. There, family and friends in league with staff and doctors intently try to steer her toward recovery. But it's not that simple. She passes time at the clinic waiting to find out what is wrong with her. What happened. When and how the damage was done.
Along the way, Alice encounters a fascinating array of oddballs and misfits - Dr. Paul, the physician who clinically evaluates and monitors this disparate group of afflicted young women; various members of the psychiatric support staff whose treatment of anorexia revolves around a chillingly familiar twelve-step program; wraithlike, flaxen-haired Gwen, whose anorexia ultimately turns into tragedy; and finally Maeve, raucous, vulgar, tender, and kind, who shakes up Alice's life and opens her eyes.
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Stephanie Grant received her MA at New York University where she studied with Mona Simpson, and was a fellow at Columbia University from 1992 to 1993. She lives in Brooklyn.From Publishers Weekly:
The suppression (and awakening) of many different appetites and hungers is the theme of this edgy and intense first novel whose protagonist is a 25-year-old anorexic. Almost six feet tall and weighing 94 pounds, Alice Forrester is sent to the Seaview clinic in Massachusetts after suffering a heart attack. The methods used to cure her aversion to food?ranging from 12-step programs to neofeminist rationalizations?are at first powerless against Alice's stubborn need to impose her will on every situation. Meanwhile, she views herself and others with clear-sighted candor. "Being a feminist and a Catholic... I could hold two opposing views in my head at the same time," she says. All of the patients at Seaview have eating disorders. Grant draws their portraits with a stiletto pen: the ageing "Queen" Victoria; the frail, beautiful Gwen, whose eventual fate is both horrifying and macabre; the disruptive, bulimic Maeve. Alice's brittle parents are sharply delineated, as are the counselors who confess to these girls and women that there is nothing for them to look forward to in life but controlling their appetites. And appetite has a lot to do with Alice's attraction to Maeve. Smoking, puking in her purse and having sex in the bathrooms, Maeve is like Alice's heavier twin, someone who devours but never consumes. The first-person narration is expressive without being wordy, and Alice's voice?the dry wit, the outsider's observations?adds a level of credibility to this chronicle of young women who are female versions of Kafka's hunger artist: they're anorexic because they haven't yet tasted a food they like. The story of how Alice finds that food and renounces her feeling of emptiness is convincing and, in the end, quite moving, proving Grant a writer in cool command of her talent.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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