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Geneen Roth's bestselling When Food Is Love profoundly explored the relationship between eating and intimacy in women's lives. Now in Appetites, she takes the themes of longing, self-denial, and nourishment and puts them into the broader context of women's experience. 256 pp. Author tour & national publicity.
According to Roth, women desire obsessively—a perfect body, success, love—instead of embracing themselves as they are and appreciating what they already have. A woman who overeats, for example, may be trying to fill a void within herself, not realizing that she already has what she needs. Roth gives examples from her own life: Having obtained what she thought she wanted—fame, a good man, a thin body, a life in scenic northern California—she still wasn't happy. Then she developed chronic fatigue syndrome and a vitamin deficiency that caused her hair to fall out, all of which made her realize that she should have appreciated her health while she had it. A series of chance disasters—an earthquake, a fire that nearly burned her house down—led her to understand that everything she has could easily be taken away, that her deepest satisfaction must come from herself. Though witty and lucid about her personal experience, Roth does, unfortunately, lapse into the occasional New Age, pseudo-Buddhist truism. Nor is it always obvious how particular parts of the narrative fit into her overall argument. Worse, the author can be downright maudlin: Anthropomorphic paeans to her cat's capacity for enlightened contentment, though mitigated by moments of self-mockery, get embarrassing after awhile.
Roth's lack of self-consciousness about her own privilege is an even larger problem. It is easy enough to preach about finding happiness within yourself when you have what you always wanted from the world. But those who haven't found love, fame, rewarding work, or money may be less than sympathetic to the spiritual struggles of the "woman who has everything" and still isn't satisfied.
|Prologue: The Places We Search||1|
|1||The Size of My Body, The Size of My Life||11|
|2||The Hunger to Be Valued||49|
|3||Parallel Lives, Part 1: Losing My Hair||77|
|4||When Someone Believes in You||105|
|5||Women's Friendships: A Conspiracy of Hunger||135|
|6||To Have or Have Not: Nourishment and Self-Denial||159|
|7||Parallel Lives, Part 2: On Happiness and Joy||183|
|8||The Longing For a Safe Place||207|
|Epilogue: Seven Remembrances||239|