Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A medical case guide couldn't present the pathology of anorexia more clearly than this coming-of-sexuality novel does. But Hanauer goes beyond Judy Blume-style fictionalizing of symptoms: her uncanny ear for dialogue creates a dead-on characterization of driven Jewish intellectual snobbery set against Italian working-class earthiness. To keep their two daughters, Cassie and narrator Billie, from growing up spoiled, Michael and Jane Weinstein have chosen to raise them not in North Berry, N.J., where the women's room in the country club offers hair-straightening irons, but in West Berry, a world of Vinnies and Dominicks where wrestling is more important than SATs. Michael is a type A surgeon. His relentless pressure has pushed Cassie into Best Athlete/Most Likely to Succeed high-school performance-which is quickly followed, during her first semester at Cornell, by a descent into anorexia and its attendant anxieties. Because of Michael's denial and Jane's desire to please, the wonderfully sensitive and assertive Billie is left to do most of the worrying about "my sister, hyper and bony, wasting away," even while she grapples with her own issues of desire and achievement. The struggles over control in Hanauer's neatly executed first novel go straight to the heart. (Apr.)
This is a beautifully written first novel about an ordinary, nonpracticing Jewish dysfunctional family in the suburbs. Father is an authoritarian physician. Mother is a teacher, caring but sensitive to social conventions. Daughter Cassie, a freshman at Cornell, is beautiful and brainy. Only her sister, Billie, 16 and not very sure of herself, realizes Cassie is losing weight, a lot of it, and has changed in other ways as well. When Cassie's weight drops dangerously, the family puts her into a resident facility for treatment of anorexia. Billie gets a boyfriend, a star wrestler, but gives herself physically to her friend's older brother. Gradually, as Cassie seems to disappear until only her bones remain, Billie begins to accept herself and strives to break free of her family. Hanauer paints a disturbing picture of the horrific effects of anorexia on patient and family. Recommended for public libraries.-Barbara Maslekoff, Ohioana Lib., Columbus
From September to May, here are an eventful few months in the life of a plucky New Jersey girl, a doctor's younger daughter who is coming of age just as her beautiful older sister begins to succumb to anorexia.
At 15, Billie Weinstein, unlike her accomplished 18-year-old sister Cassie, is a rebeland a charming mess. Her schoolwork is only adequate in a family that expects straight A's, she harbors an inappropriate crush on a local gas-station attendant called Dom, and her beloved best friend Tiffany is the school hood. Billie's father, a surgeon and a dictatorial though fundamentally loving dad, has successfully coached and coaxed Cassie into her freshman year at Cornell, his alma mater, and now is turning his watchful gaze on Billie, who is cramming for PSATs. She's also tepidly dating a boy named Vinnie, captain of the wrestling team, and secretly communicating with Cassie, who's away at college and giving veiled hints of disturbing, self-destructive episodes. When Cassie comes home for Christmas weighing 95 pounds and refusing to eat, chaos erupts. Billie's father decides to "fix" the situation by forcing Cassie to eat (she doesn't); Billie's mother weakly intercedes; and Cassie steadily deteriorates, losing her hair, becoming too weak to walk, eventually having to be hospitalized. In a riveting, powerful scene set in the family car on the way back from a hospital visit, Billie, ordered by her father to take the wheel and practice driving, is so criticized, controlled, and belittled by him that she pulls over, flees, and hunts up Dom, who sullenly takes her virginity and then gets drunk. Interesting subplots abound, meanwhile, in a novel that keeps moving and doesn't fall back on false reprieves or sudden saving changes of character. Cassie and her parents remain locked in a battle of expectations and resistance; only Billie sees the family pattern clearly enough to begin to escape.
A persuasive, well-rendered, and rich first novel about family systems.
From the Publisher
"This is a poignant but also lively and humorous novel, with characters so believable you expect them to rise up off the page."
Elizabeth Berg, author of Talk Before Sleep