Title: The Appetites of Girls
Author: Pamela Moses
Release Date: June 26, 2014
Publisher: Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Ruth, Francesca, Opal, and Setsu are four very different women who come together as suitemates for their first year of college. As they experience new things, they grow and change, yet their pasts are always close at hand, shaping what they do and who these women will become.
A thoughtful novel about four very different women with a unique but effective structure, The Appetites of Girls deals with many issues as its main characters grow together and pull themselves apart.
The Appetites of Girls is a novel about four women, narrated by each, but it isn’t your typical story structure. No, instead it almost reads like a series of connected short stories; first we are treated to one snippet of each of their childhoods, to understand who they were before they met and came together and what past experiences have informed their present states. Then, over the course of college, each woman narrates one year, rather than seeing the same events from different points of view. Then, finally, we meet up with these women again after college to see how they’ve changed and what they’ve become. The structure works incredibly well for this book; it may sound disjointed, but it’s not at all. It allows the reader to come to know each of these women intimately, to understand what they’ve been through and where they are going.
Food is an important theme in The Appetite of Girls. For Ruth and Francesca, it provides a measure of comfort, a reminder of home, and they find themselves gorging on it all too often. Ruth is ashamed of her size, though she can’t help but try to fill the holes inside herself with food, while Francesca takes a stand against the expectation that every woman should have the same body type. Meanwhile, Opal and Setsu use food as a means of control. It’s interesting to see how each of these women deals with food, as none of them have truly healthy relationships with it.
There are other important issues that Moses deals with as well in The Appetites of Girls: mental/emotional abuse, self-sacrifice, love, and more. It’s so interesting to see each of these women develop into something more, especially as they are facing challenges that could change everything. It would be easy to give up in the face of these problems, but while these girls don’t necessarily share all their secrets, they come together without fail when one of their own needs help. It’s a nice portrait of female friendships, but isn’t afraid to explore the complexity that comes with it.
If you are looking for a new book club pick, The Appetites of Girls would make a great choice. The novel reads very quickly, but there are many stories packed within its pages. Francesca, Opal, Setsu, and Ruth seem as though they are friends about to leap off the page; readers will want to discuss these complex women as they turn the pages, seeing where each of them ends up. This is a sharp, smart novel that readers of any age and gender should absolutely consider.