LIFE-SIZE by Jenefer Shute


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 First-novelist Shute creates a harrowing saga of a woman so afflicted with anorexia nervosa that she almost starves to death, her food crawling with filthy associations and the act of eating itself hallucinatory in its obscenity. Josie, a 25-year-old graduate student, weighs 67 pounds when she is taken against her will to a treatment center for eating disorders. Although she is literally starving to death, her lips blue and her skin covered with a strange layer of soft protective hair, she eyes her food tray--chicken and broccoli and milk--with disgust: ``A corpse and a tree; a fluid secreted by bovine mammary glands. Gobs of congealed grease.'' She dreams of existing on air like a plant and cherishes the strength of her will and her pure, clear shape. Just bones. Even though her skeletal shape makes her parents cry and others gasp, she starts each day with the deeply satisfying ritual of fingering the hollows and contours of her bones. Threatened with force-feeding and watched by a nurse, she nibbles at her food. Day by day, in spite of herself, her strength and sanity begin to return. She remembers her adolescence and the genesis of her disease--she was a plump girl in a world that tolerated only slender women. Filled with self-hatred for having a body that didn't conform to the fashion magazines, she began to diet, making a religion of it until only the perfection of pure bone would do. Shute, telling the story in Josie's voice, limits her scope to the narrow, obsessive thoughts of an anorexic, so her portrait, while harrowing and absorbing, is more a fictional journal than a full-fledged novel.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0-395-60479-6
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1992