"My parents may love me, but I also know they view me as a houseguest who is turning a weekend stay into an all-expense-paid, lifelong residency, and who (to their horror) constantly forgets to flush the toilet and shut off the lights."
Twenty-six-year-old Frannie Hunter has just moved back home. Bright, wry, blunt, and irreverent, she invites you to witness her family's unraveling. Her Harvard-bound sister is anorexic, her mother is having an affair, her father is obsessed with the Food Network, her grandfather wants to plan her wedding (even though she has no fiance, let alone a steady boyfriend), and, to top it off, Frannie is a waitress who wears a dirty duck apron and serves plates of fried cheese to her ex-boyfriend's parents.
By turns wickedly funny and heartbreakingly bittersweet, Hunger Point chronicles Frannie's triumph over her own self-destructive tendencies, and offers a powerful exploration of the complex relationships that bind together a contemporary American family. You will never forget Frannie, a "sultry, suburban Holden Caulfield," who critics have called "the most fully realized character to come along in years," (Paper) and you'll never forget Hunger Point, an utterly original novel that stuns with its amazing insights and dazzles with its fresh, distinctive voice.
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October 15, 2002
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Excerpt from Hunger Point by Jillian Medoff
Look at these breasts! They're huge!" I grew up jealous of my mother's love affair with food. Other families gathered around the dinner table to discuss report cards and whose turn it was to walk the dog. When I was a kid, the meal itself took center stage, and food was treated like a favored child.
"Can you believe how big they are? They're absolutely to die for!"
The meal continued with my mother's running commentary on every aspect of those breasts: how my father should have marinated them in barbecue sauce, not soy, because they taste too salty, no? and Frannie! Don't eat the skin. You won't lose weight if you eat the skin.
"We're eating, Mom," she'd say to my grandmother, who had the uncanny ability to call just as we sat down. "Chicken. Absolutely delicious. Marinated in some soy thing. Yes, the girls are here, but some of us are on diets"--she glanced at me, a narrow eyebrow raised--"so no skin." She nestled the phone in her neck to tell us that Grandma didn't want us to worry about our weight, we're skinny enough as it is.
She got up, waving her fork in the air like a baton. "No, I am listening. I heard every word." She lifted the breast from her plate and walked through the kitchen. Wrapped in the phone cord, she picked off the meat with her long red nails. She gnawed on the bone, sucking off what she could, then threw it out and hung up, the receiver streaked with a faint oval of grease.
"Grandma says hi. God, this chicken is so good, it's like a sickness with me." She canvassed the table as we ate. "Frannie!" she yelped. "What are you doing?!" I froze in my seat. And slowly, so slowly, I loosened my grip on the forbidden skin and slid it palm-down onto my sister Shelly's plate. "Dear," she said with annoyance. "I love the skin more than you, but do you see me eating it? It's fattening."
When we were very young the amount of food we could consume was an endless source of amusement. "A whole half a steak!" my grandmother exclaimed as Shelly fisted a piece of sirloin. "A whole half a steak! Where does she put it?" She shook her head in fascination and delight. "Shelly's got your appetite, Marsha!" she said proudly. "Now stand back, let the child eat."
By elementary school, my ability to consume seven Twinkies in one sitting was no longer cute. "Frannie, you're getting fat," my mom said solemnly. "You're too pretty to be heavy. You want boys to like you, don't you?" The word fat assumed a meaning as deadly as cancer. Getting fat was worse than losing your job, worse than being jilted at the altar, worse than living in a trailer park and growing up without shoes. "You need to start watching yourself," my mother instructed, "before it's too late."
I went to my first Weight Watchers meeting when I was ten. Shelly, who was eight with soft creamy skin, blond angel hair, blue eyes the color of a cloudless sky, and "legs like a gazelle," stayed home. "We're a team, Frannie," my mother said, lining up in front of the scale. "The first one to lose ten pounds gets a new bathing suit."
I wasn't an ugly kid, nor, looking back, was I particularly fat. I have long, curly brown hair that kinks like moss when it rains, green eyes, and a lot of "those could become melanoma" freckles across my nose and chest. Not your All-American beauty, but certainly not Medusa. Rather than bicker with my mother, I carried the Weight Watchers passbook where they recorded my weight, I listened attentively to the lecture, I even raised my hand once to ask where all the fat went when you lost it. All the chubby women hunched in their folding chairs laughed at my precociousness, but I was genuinely curious.