Thursday, November 4, 2010

Hunger by Jackie Morse Kessler

Summary (courtesy of GoodReads):  Lisabeth Lewis has a black steed, a set of scales, and a new job: she’s been appointed Famine. How will an anorexic seventeen-year-old girl from the suburbs fare as one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse?

Traveling the world on her steed gives Lisa freedom from her troubles at home: her constant battle with hunger, and her struggle to hide it from the people who care about her. But being Famine forces her to go places where hunger is a painful part of everyday life, and to face the horrifying effects of her phenomenal power. Can Lisa find a way to harness that power — and the courage to battle her own inner demons?

And here's what I thought:  I had been waiting on this one to come into the library (I had actually ordered it a few months ago, so I was getting a little twitchy....) because I had read other books by Jackie Kessler, and anticipated this one would be pretty good.  Also, I was completely intrigued by the idea of a girl being given the job of Famine.  I definitely wasn't disappointed by this book -- it was short, and was a fast read, and an good story. 

I thought Lisabeth was an interesting character.  She's obviously a smart girl, but she's caught up in the vicious cycle of anorexia, which is having a bigger and bigger impact on her everyday life.   When Death meets her and hands over the mantle of Famine, she thinks the whole thing was just a weird dream --- until she realizes that the large black horse in her yard won't go away (and -- oh yeah, she seems to have a strange sort of power now).  Of course, it's not all scary --- Death looks a little like Kurt Cobain, and her new horse, Midnight, seems to have a nice personality.  However, Famine is a heavy job (obviously) and Lisa's not sure what she's really supposed to be doing.   It makes things precarious for a bit, but as Lisa learns that her job is to bring balance, she starts to discover not only the power she has in her scales, but the power she has in herself.

And that's what this story was really about to me: self-discovery.  It's not just about what it would be like to become one of the Four Horsemen (although I admit, that is pretty cool), but it's about how Lisa learns more about herself and finds her inner strength to not only use the scales she's been given to balance things in the world, but how she can find balance within herself, and figure out how to break out of the unhealthy relationship she has with food.   And just in case you think this book is all gloomy, think again ---- as I would expect from this author, there are bits of sly humor here occasionally, which not only break up the tension a little, but add to the characters.   The writing here is fluid and expressive, sometimes giving beautiful details.   Example: "Hesitating for a moment, Lisa stared at the bronze (or maybe brass) set of scales, impressed by how something so small could radiate such menace.  The center beam was intricately shaped. curving and sensuous - rather feminine-looking, except for the harsh, masculine quality to the metal."  p. 55     I have to say - "...impressed by how something so small could radiate such menace..." makes me think of one of my small bunnies when she's grouchy.  But I digress....    Overall, I enjoyed this story because I thought the writing was great, and the premise was intriguing.   I basically whipped right through this one -- it's a bit of a crazy ride, but an enjoyable one!  

This might sound odd, but I liked that Jackie Kessler gave me realistic characters here, ugliness and all.  It was obvious to me that she had knowledge about eating disorders, and brought that completely into the story in a way that really made Lisa real to me.  What starts to physically happen to Lisa in the story is what actually does happen to people who starve themselves, and I liked that Kessler didn't back away from any of that.  She also didn't back away from the ugliness of Lisa's friend Tammy, who suffers from bulimia.  I didn't feel that Kessler amped up the ugliness to make a point; she just presented the picture of this girl, bingeing and purging, in all of its plain awful-ness.   I give her credit for not flinching.

First Sentence:  "Lisabeth Lewis didn't mean to become Famine."  "

Thoughts on the cover: 
It's really dark, so it's a little tricky to make out that the outline of the scales is there -- my book cover was really shiny, so I actually saw the art better if I picked up the book and tilted it a bit to bring out all the details.  I liked that it was dark, reflecting the nature of both Famine and eating disorders, and also that the scales were the primary focus, echoing the theme of balance in the story.

Where I got this book:  Library!


Pablo Molina said...

Hi, im reading this book right now! i´m liking it, i like the funny phrases in the book the bulimia and anorexia are a huge problem in the world but i think that the author has a good way of putting them!

Amber said...

I really want this book but now of the bookstores in my town are carrying it currently. I'm so glad Lisabeth felt real to you. I can't wait to get my hands on this one. Thanks for the review!

Beverly said...

I read this one too - loved it! Have already pre-ordered the next one!

Book Loving Mommy said...

This sounds interesting! I just ordered it from the library. As a recovered anorexic, I am interested in reading how the character deals with being famine!

brandileigh2003 said...

Death is a wonderful character and he comes back in Rage :)

Brandi from Blkosiner’s Book Blog

Julie said...

I've read some mixed reviews on this one, but most seem to be in the very positive side, and the COVER is to die for! I have it on my wishlist. Thanks for the review!

Julie @ Knitting and Sundries

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