Sometimes, I get sucked in by a great cover. Like the title, the cover art of this book had me enraptured immediately. I didn’t know anything about the story or about the critical praise that this novel has received — I just knew that it had a beautiful cover, a seemingly engaging storyline (based on the cover summary), and an interesting Black female author, Anissa Gray. So I picked up, and bought, The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls.
But, after I finished the book, I realized that the cover art is actually a bit too busy. Like the book.
The story runs less than 300 pages, but my oh my, there is a lot going on here. I can throw out some details, I think, without giving too many spoilers; we have a sister, who is a lesbian, and bulimic; she has a white Jewish gay male best friend; another sister who is in prison, along with her husband; another sister who was severely emotionally and physically abused as a child; a father who was holy enough to travel and preach but disconnected enough to leave small children alone in the care of another child while he did so; a brother who has followed in the path of holiness, and the other bad stuff too; oh and the daughters of the sister who is in prison are all jacked up too, not the least of which because one of the daughters is the one who dropped the dime on her parents. Did I mention that the abused sister is taking care of her dead husband’s grandmother from China (and that she cheated on said husband and they actually got a divorced before he died abruptly)?
So yea. That’s a lot to keep up with in less than 300 pages. The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls tries to keep all the threads, but some of them get lost in the shuffle of the multiple plotlines and perspectives, some of which are honestly not truly fruitful or necessary.
There were some shining points in this book. It looks at motherhood, at Black motherhood particularly, in a fresh way. Sometimes, you don’t like your kids. Sometimes they don’t do what you want them to do. Sometimes you mess up. Sometimes you do toxic shit for years before you realize it. We also inherit, and, all too often, pass on our inter-generational trauma. At the base of it, we need love. We women, and we girls, we need, ask for, demand, tease out, drink, starve for, devour, drain, and deserve all of the love that we can potentially soak up. The problem is that when the women we are depending on to give that love to us never quite got the amount they needed themselves, they’re sometimes forced to choose starvation in order to feed us. I think this is what Gray was writing about, fundamentally.
The problem, for me, with this story, is that she chose to write about so many other things in addition. The cluttered nature of the story makes it lose some of its teeth. But overall, I would still suggest you pick this book up and give it a shot. It will make you think about love and motherhood and girlhood and family in a unique way, even for its faults.
As they say, you cannot pour from an empty vessel, and you surely cannot feed ravenously hungry girls from one.