Hunger Point
Jillian Medoff
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Hunger Point

Jillian Medoff
384 pages
October 2003
rated 4 1/2 of 5 possible stars

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In her eerily accurate portrayal of a family in crisis, Jillian Medoff fearlessly tackles her subject head on. Couched in the abrasive humor of a dysfunctional family run amok, Hunger Point is told from the point-of-view of Frannie Hunter, a woman on the inside looking out. At twenty-six, Frannie temporarily moves home. Her own financial and emotional resources in a state of collapse, Frannie retreats to the bedroom of her childhood, at first finding comfort in the depths of sleep.

Her well-meaning and ineffective mother, Marsha, has hectored both of her daughters all their lives, cautioning restraint, chanting her mantra: "don't get fat." David, their distant father, does the family food shopping and cooking and otherwise refuses to engage in the family dynamic. With a critical eye, Frannie watches her parents spin through the days, their lack of connections ever more obvious.

For all her quirky attempts at accommodation, Frannie is ineffective and cannot tempt her younger sister, Shelly, back from the razor's edge of anorexia. When Shelly's hold on life is tenuous and she is hospitalized, Frannie feels invisible. In contrast to Shelly's literal starvation, Frannie compulsively consumes food indiscriminately in a vain attempt to assuage the gnawing fear that grows inside her. But there is no panacea for Frannie's pain, and neither sex, sleep, nor food offer the relief she so desperately seeks.

The whole family concentrates on Shelly's critical condition, while Frannie makes poignant distinctions of life in her parent's house as "ominous and depressing, weighted with the feeling of someone about to burst into tears." Adept at denial, each family member struggles to maintain the status quo in the face of inevitability, doomed to failure.

Medoff writes with unassailable conviction, flaying the myths around food and self-image, the tortured young women victims of a society that disproportionately values packaging over content. Her incisive wit cuts through situations too painful to bear; Medoff's account of this family is pitch-perfect.

There are many pitfalls in a novel that deals with such life-changing issues, one of which is the fine line between describing a disease and authoring a do-it-yourself manual. Medoff successfully refuses to pander to anorexia in this way. This story is cautionary, full of details about the seductive nature of addiction and the ease with which families evolve into a paradigm that allows denial to camouflage truth. Brutally honest, tempered with the wry humor of self-examination, Frannie is a character reference for recovery.

© 2003 by Luan Gaines for Curled Up With a Good Book

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