Monday, February 22, 2021

Book Review | MILK FED by Melissa Broder

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MILK FED by Melissa Broder
Publication: February 2, 2021
Publisher: Scribner,
Simon & Schuster CA
Genre: Literary Fiction
Rating: ★★★★

A scathingly funny, wildly erotic, and fiercely imaginative story about food, sex, and god from the acclaimed author of The Pisces and So Sad Today.

Rachel is twenty-four, a lapsed Jew who has made calorie restriction her religion. By day, she maintains an illusion of existential control, by way of obsessive food rituals, while working as an underling at a Los Angeles talent management agency. At night, she pedals nowhere on the elliptical machine. Rachel is content to carry on subsisting—until her therapist encourages her to take a ninety-day communication detox from her mother, who raised her in the tradition of calorie counting.

Early in the detox, Rachel meets Miriam, a zaftig young Orthodox Jewish woman who works at her favorite frozen yogurt shop and is intent upon feeding her. Rachel is suddenly and powerfully entranced by Miriam—by her sundaes and her body, her faith and her family—and as the two grow closer, Rachel embarks on a journey marked by mirrors, mysticism, mothers, milk, and honey.

Pairing superlative emotional insight with unabashed vivid fantasy, Broder tells a tale of appetites: physical hunger, sexual desire, spiritual longing, and the ways that we as humans can compartmentalize these so often interdependent instincts. Milk Fed is a tender and riotously funny meditation on love, certitude, and the question of what we are all being fed, from one of our major writers on the psyche—both sacred and profane.



Broder may take some getting used to, especially by people with sensitive palates. I was lucky enough to borrow an audio version from Libby to accompany me during my reading. Narrated by Broder herself, I get to experience how this book should be read and felt firsthand. The story is witty, fragile, and weirdly engaging, all at the same time. MILK FED is told by Rachel, a 24-year-old talent agent and stand-up comedian with an eating disorder. Her problems stemmed from her mother’s aesthetic expectations. Rachel talks about (almost) everything in a vividly tactile manner -yogurt, energy bar, and her sexual imaginings. And she went to some excesses handing out her issues in prickly means, too.

Emotionally damaged, Rachel carried up sensitive issues that, often than not, were badly addressed. She temporarily detoxed herself from her mother, as her therapist advised, but refused to confront her other problems. Her spiral was alarming. And then, she met the yogurt goddess named Miriam.

Miriam is everything un-Rachel. She is bossy, confident, religious, family-oriented, and (most of all) a foodie. Although everything is told from Rachel's perspective, it is both cute and painful to see them together. While Rachel projects Miriam as a motherly figure, she also objectified her in her sexual fantasies, which is one of those issues that were nippily wrapped up. Her problem, though, has nothing to do with her sexual preferences or orientation. She is struggling to pour from an empty cup. Rachel needs to be comfortable in her own skin.

MILK FED is unapologetically raw, a sensory overload, where words are lavishly applied. I do recommend it to anyone else who gravitates toward the damaged and weird.


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About the Author:

Melissa Broder is the author of the novel The Pisces, the essay collection So Sad Today and four poetry collections, including Last Sext. She has written for The New York Times, Elle.com, VICE, Vogue Italia, and New York magazine’s “The Cut.” Her poems have appeared in POETRY, The Iowa Review, Tin House, and Guernica, and she is the winner of a Pushcart Prize for poetry. She lives in Los Angeles. Photograph by Petra Collins.




*Thanks to Scribner, Simon & Schuster Canada for the physical ARC in exchange for this unbiased review.
*This post is a part of the monthly linkups organized by Lovely Audiobooks! You can click here to check it out and be a part of it.

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