HOLY HUNGER by Margaret Bullitt-Jonas


A Memoir of Desire
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Bullitt-Jonas tells the story of her food addiction and rescue. A Harvard-trained Episcopal priest now living in Brookline, Mass., the author says her eating disorder raged secretly out of control until she finally could face her pain and find a way out of it. “Overeating is a language with its own grammar and vocabulary,” she notes. “It’s as much a mistake to assume that compulsive eaters love food or love to eat as it is to assume that sexually promiscuous persons love the partners that they seduce and discard.” For her, “a binge often began with an angry mind, but by the end of the binge, the anger would be comfortably cloaked and soothed.” She—d gain as much as eleven pounds in four days. But the quiet pace of her self-discovery here slowly gathers force as the author probes not only her own tale, but also her family’s. She addresses both the nature of desire and the power that comes of finally putting desire into words and accepting it. What were the hindrances? Bullitt-Jonas was born into a world where thoughts were expected to leap “from the brain to the belly,” meanwhile “avoiding the heart.” Her family’s demands for excellence, poise, and self-control, coupled with their Cambridge-style academic leanings, all exerted a baleful force on her. Hidden behind their demands, her parents—at length divorced’seemed unduly detached from her. That her Harvard professor of English father (—the master of words—) was a tormented alcoholic and her Radcliffe trustee mother (—the master of silence—) was severely depressed throughout the daughter’s childhood were facts she learned only later. Recovering her own identity is the memoir’s goal, and Bullitt-Jonas gradually also gains insight into her family and other relationships. She clears a space that she can live in. An encouraging testimonial to the rewards of following a wise suggestion: “Heal thyself.”

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-375-40094-X
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 1998