Grim exploration of the author’s wretched childhood and consequent lifelong relationship with food.
Moore (Never Eat Your Heart Out, 1996) had it rough as a girl. Abandoned by her father at age three-and-a-half, she was left to the mercy of a vicious, violent mother and a possibly sociopathic grandmother. These loveless formative years had a lasting impact: “I hate myself. I have almost always hated myself.” After this introduction and a long consideration of her heavy, adult body and its impact on her life, Moore begins piecing together her past. Prominently featured are the parents who quickly divorced, resulting in long stretches of loneliness for Moore in Oklahoma and New York City. Self-pity might seem all but unavoidable in discussing such circumstances, but the tone here, rather than confessional or exculpatory, has the ring of the analytical. As the author relates the trials she endured—just how fat she was, how her clothing fit, how she started each school year scanning the schoolroom for a classmate heavier than she—the episodes come together to make up a work that could be an anthropological study of the habits of obese children, or a psychological study of the effect of lovelessness on a child’s development. Moore is matter-of-fact in describing childhood beatings; nor does she spare herself, confessing childhood misdeeds that included entering the homes of adults she admired and repeatedly raiding their pantries. Her greatest and most constant love is, of course, food. Here, she offers pages of unctuous descriptions of the texture of a cheeseburger, the composition of a dinner party menu, or the southern-fried feasts she imagines her father devouring as a young man.
Moore warns the reader not to expect a triumphant ending, and she’s true to her word, though her book is strongly written and starkly compelling to the end.