Food (in all its polymorphous varieties, kosher and not), designer clothes, their mother Edith's silverware, but especially, especially, Edith's loving attention—these are the cravings of Felman and her sisters in this rather offputting memoir. The lives of Felman (Hot Chicken Wings, not reviewed) and her older sisters, Judy and Jan, were regulated in every way by a perfectionist mother whose nostrums for life included the importance of playing bridge and setting a perfect table. Her house immaculate, she placed a sign in the bathroom admonishing her daughters, ``If you sprinkle when you tinkle, then please be neat and wipe the seat.'' But Edith was always busy, teaching Hebrew school, going to Hadassah meetings, being the perfect homemaker. Too busy, along with father Marvin, who had his parking lot to maintain, to notice that Judy was shoplifting and becoming anorexic. So busy that 12-year-old Jyl intentionally hyperventilated one day to place herself in the hospital so she could receive Edith's undivided attention. Even after their mother's death from Parkinson's disease, this Edith-craving causes bitter jealousy among her daughters, who vie to inherit her belongings. The memoir opens with this sibling rivalry, and one immediately conceives a dislike for these three immature women. Felman seems locked in a love-hate relationship with her mother, a need to both identify with and separate herself from Edith. But it is the unresolved rage that predominates in this book, which is more an outpouring than an exploration. Trying to lend greater significance to her family's pathology, Felman constantly drags in Jewish history: ``Judy was the messianic hope after the Holocaust. . . . It was a lot of pressure.'' This explains her anorexia? And Felman's habit of writing in sentence fragments (``When she was born. She was the first. Of everything'') becomes an added irritant. Felman is so full of sympathy for herself, that readers will have no need to add their own.
Read full book review >