A scathingly funny, wildly erotic, and fiercely imaginative story about food, sex, and god from the acclaimed author of The Pisces and So Sad Today.
Rachel is twenty-four, a lapsed Jew who has made calorie restriction her religion. By day, she maintains an illusion of existential control, by way of obsessive food rituals, while working as an underling at a Los Angeles talent management agency. At night, she pedals nowhere on the elliptical machine. Rachel is content to carry on subsisting—until her therapist encourages her to take a ninety-day communication detox from her mother, who raised her in the tradition of calorie counting.
Early in the detox, Rachel meets Miriam, a zaftig young Orthodox Jewish woman who works at her favorite frozen yogurt shop and is intent upon feeding her. Rachel is suddenly and powerfully entranced by Miriam—by her sundaes and her body, her faith and her family—and as the two grow closer, Rachel embarks on a journey marked by mirrors, mysticism, mothers, milk, and honey.
Pairing superlative emotional insight with unabashed vivid fantasy, Broder tells a tale of appetites: physical hunger, sexual desire, spiritual longing, and the ways that we as humans can compartmentalize these so often interdependent instincts. Milk Fed is a tender and riotously funny meditation on love, certitude, and the question of what we are all being fed, from one of our major writers on the psyche—both sacred and profane.
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About the Author
Reading Group Guide
This reading group guide for Milk Fed includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
Rachel is a lapsed Jew and obsessive calorie-counter. She’s overwhelmed by her attraction to Miriam, who works at the frozen yogurt shop Rachel frequents every day. Miriam begins to fall for Rachel too, but Miriam is Orthodox and takes great joy in eating. With a golem, an ancient mystic rabbi, a wicked mother, and some truly wild erotic fantasies, Milk Fed is a tender and riotously funny meditation on love, certitude, and the question of what we are all being fed.
Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. This book is partially about extreme dieting and disordered eating. As a group, discuss this phenomenon. Have you encountered other fiction about food, and how has it affected you?
2. Before Rachel meets Miriam, how do you feel about her?
3. What is Ana’s role in Rachel’s life? What do you make of Rachel’s mental state when you read about her fantasy involving Ana (pages 27–29)?
4. On page 18, Rachel refers to her mother “opening an emotional spreadsheet.” What does this metaphor mean? How does it compare to Rachel’s relationship with her father (chapter 13)?
5. What is Rachel’s impression of Miriam when she meets Miriam for the first time?
6. Take a moment to discuss the cadence of dialogue in Milk Fed. How does the author use it to reveal more about Rachel, Miriam, and the supporting cast?
7. On page 54, Rachel loses the sculpture her therapist asked her to create. What do you think is the significance of this?
8. In chapter 36, Rachel ponders how the Schwebels would react to Miriam coming out to them, and contrasts it with the way her own mother responded. What is the significance of the imagined differences in these parental responses?
9. Throughout Milk Fed, Rachel fantasizes about Miriam. Do you think there’s a big difference between her fantasy of Miriam and the actual, real Miriam?
10. Discuss the various appearances of Rabbi Judah Loew ben Bezalel. What do they signal? What’s happening to Rachel when she sees the rabbi in her subconscious?
11. How do Rachel and Miriam observe their Jewish faith differently? How does that layer of culture add to Milk Fed? Are there religious references that you were compelled to research?
12. How does her relationship with Miriam fundamentally change Rachel?
Enhance Your Book Club
1. Read more of Melissa Broder’s books! Her first novel is The Pisces, another obsessive love story that’s both sexy and hilarious, but this time involving a merman.
2. Have a Yo!Good-style sundae buffet—the host can provide the frozen yogurt, and everyone else can bring their favorite toppings to share (see who makes the most Miriam-like sundae).
3. As the moderator in your group, obtain a copy of Melissa Broder’s poetry collection Last Sext. Have a reading party at the end of your book club and pass the collection around, each person reading a poem or two aloud. Nibble on some Twizzlers while you’re at it!