Cravings: A Sensual Memoirby Jyl Lynn Felman
In this profound and darkly funny collection of essays, Jyl Lynn Felman explores the bittersweet experience of growing up the youngest of three girls in a Jewish American family in Dayton, Ohio. In a family unable to speak about feelings, the Felman sisters found their own ways to break through the silence and rigidity of their parents' religious beliefs and to vie for their mother's attention and love.
As an adult, Felman reckons with her grief over her mother's suffering and eventual death from Parkinson's disease and its destruction of the family. Throughout, she writes of her own cravings in the sensual experience of her childhood—the taste of her mother's cooking, the feel of her touch, and how these memories have driven her adult life.
"The loss of a mother is one of the most profound tragedies a daughter will face. Jyl Lynn Felman explores this territory with remarkable bravery. A stunning memoir.…Cravings is beautifully written and painfully honest. After turning the final page, I was hungry for more."
—Hope Edelman, author of Motherless Daughters
"With her sharp-eyed sensibility and spare, distinctive prose, Felman is always revealing."
The lives of Felman (Hot Chicken Wings, not reviewed) and her older sisters, Judy and Jan, were regulated in every way by a perfectionist mother whose nostrums for life included the importance of playing bridge and setting a perfect table. Her house immaculate, she placed a sign in the bathroom admonishing her daughters, "If you sprinkle when you tinkle, then please be neat and wipe the seat." But Edith was always busy, teaching Hebrew school, going to Hadassah meetings, being the perfect homemaker. Too busy, along with father Marvin, who had his parking lot to maintain, to notice that Judy was shoplifting and becoming anorexic. So busy that 12-year-old Jyl intentionally hyperventilated one day to place herself in the hospital so she could receive Edith's undivided attention. Even after their mother's death from Parkinson's disease, this Edith-craving causes bitter jealousy among her daughters, who vie to inherit her belongings. The memoir opens with this sibling rivalry, and one immediately conceives a dislike for these three immature women. Felman seems locked in a love-hate relationship with her mother, a need to both identify with and separate herself from Edith. But it is the unresolved rage that predominates in this book, which is more an outpouring than an exploration. Trying to lend greater significance to her family's pathology, Felman constantly drags in Jewish history: "Judy was the messianic hope after the Holocaust. . . . It was a lot of pressure." This explains her anorexia? And Felman's habit of writing in sentence fragments ("When she was born. She was the first. Of everything") becomes an added irritant.
Felman is so full of sympathy for herself, that readers will have no need to add their own.
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