Tuesday, April 12, 2011

brave girl eating: A Family's Struggle with Anorexia by Harriet Brown *Review*

The demon's voice has come again. "Why are you doing this to me?" it screams in a high pitched voice, tongue flicking in and out like a serpent. This was not Harriet's daughter speaking. Kitty wouldn't say this, this was Not-Kitty, the part of her daughter that would take over when her caloric intake would drop to low.

brave girl eating like the subtitle clearly spells out is about how a whole family struggles with anorexia. How it takes over each and every waking moment of their day. How Harriet, Kitty's mother has to be the food police and sit with her daughter while she eats to make sure she's eating everything set before her. How Kitty's dad Jamie has to be near her for an hour after every meal to make sure she doesn't escape to the bathroom to throw it all up. About the Brown's other daughter, ten-year=old Emma, who has to listen to the fights and the begging and the pleading to get through every meal and how she misses out on so much because of her parent's need to not let Kitty out of their sight.

As a treatment option the Brown's chose FBT, Family Based Therapy, instead of sending their daughter away to an inpatient clinic. What they chose was a much harder option but one with significantly higher recovery rates, almost 90 percent! They had a good support team behind them but the struggle was all their own. Harriet was consumed with fitting in as many calories in every meal as she could, "refeeding" their daughter, sometimes as much as 4,000 calories a day to get her up to a target weight and then being able to back off a little and let Kitty have a little control over her eating habits.

Kitty was diagnosed at the age of fourteen. At eighteen and very close to her target weight they let Kitty go away for a bit to prepare for college life. In one month she lost fifteen pounds, had relapsed, and had to return home. Kitty is still not recovered from the disease. She doesn't feel hunger and maybe never will, but Kitty's family is determined to stick by her because that's what families do.

brave girl eating is a fascinating novel about a mysterious disease. And when I say fascinating I don't mean this definition: a feeling of great liking for something wonderful and unusual. I mean this definition: the state of being intensely interested (as by awe or terror). Awe of what this horrific disease can do to the mind and the body, and terrified of every seeing it rear it's ugly head in somebody I love.

This heartbreaking novel was a real eye opener to me. Aside from a couple of chapters filled with a little too much research and studies on weight gain and loss it moved fairly quickly. I would rate this book 3.5/5 stars.