Book Title and Author: The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls by Anissa Gray
Publication Date and Publisher: February 19, 2019 by Berkley Publishing
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Literary Fiction
Pages: 304 pages
Buy on Amazon.com
Date Read: January 19, 2019 (e-arc)
The Mothers meets An American Marriage in this dazzling debut novel about mothers and daughters, identity and family, and how the relationships that sustain you can also be the ones that consume you.
The Butler family has had their share of trials—as sisters Althea, Viola, and Lillian can attest—but nothing prepared them for the literal trial that will upend their lives.
Althea, the eldest sister and substitute matriarch, is a force to be reckoned with and her younger sisters have alternately appreciated and chafed at her strong will. They are as stunned as the rest of the small community when she and her husband Proctor are arrested, and in a heartbeat, the family goes from one of the most respected in town to utter disgrace. The worst part is, not even her sisters are sure exactly what happened.
As Althea awaits her fate, Lillian and Viola must come together in the house they grew up in to care for their sister’s teenage daughters. What unfolds is a stunning portrait of the heart and core of an American family in a story that is as page-turning as it is important.
If the title and gorgeous cover hadn’t grabbed me, I knew I had to read The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls when it was compared to An American Marriage by Tayari Jones and The Mothers by Brit Bennett, two other powerful, honest, and stunning books about fractured and damaged family relationships that I absolutely loved last year. Anissa Gray’s debut novel more than met my expectations as she writes such an intrinsic, emotional, and absorbing story about lies, broken relationships, a deeply dysfunctional family, and the power of love and forgiveness to begin healing wounds.
Althea and Proctor are pillars of the community– working non-stop at their restaurant and organizing community fundraisers to give back to those in need. Yet, things are not as it seems when they’re both arrested for committing fraud and stealing from the neighbors they claimed to be helping and from the government and in turn, sentenced to a jail sentence of several years.
While Althea and Proctor are in jail, their teenage twin daughters Kim and Baby Vi now live with their Aunt Lillian. The girls are now pariahs in town because of their parents and must struggle every day with the aftermath of their parent’s crimes. Even more painfully, the girls struggle with issues, deep inner demons, caused by the tough style of love that stubborn, hard-hearted Althea gave them over the years, especially since she always preferred one twin over the other…
Then there are Althea’s sisters, Lillian and Viola, (and brother Joe) who were raised by a 12-year-old Althea after the death of their mother because their father was an itinerant preacher whose idea of raising his family was with his belt and the back of his hands. It’s no wonder the dysfunction runs dark and deep in this family. Lillian and Viola are the other voices who narrate this novel in alternating chapters along with Althea, and it is through these three sister’s voices we hear about their long-buried secrets, the past no one wants to confront, and the betrayals of siblings…and children.
It was hard to read at times, but I was immediately taken in by the author’s raw honesty while writing about the darkest and most despairing of topics. Even throughout the conflict, the dysfunction, the pain…actually, in spite of it, Gray shows in The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls how strong women can come together in the most difficult of times to repair a broken family as well as put themselves back together.
I highly recommend you read this novel! I was more than impressed that this was Gray’s debut and was profoundly affected by this story of family. The subject matter is emotional, important, timely and while being stark and painful at times, it is beautifully written and sincere.
**Thank you, Edelweiss and Berkley Publishing for an advanced readers copy of this novel in exchange for my fair and honest review.**