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Malnourished: A Memoir of Sisterhood and Hunger


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A painful and emotive memoir about sisters growing up amid family dysfunction, eating disorders, sexual abuse, and mental health issues

If there's one book that you read this year, let it be this one.

The eloquence, honesty, and raw emotion of Ritchie's writing is so overwhelming that this book will stay with me for a long time. She speaks poetically and unapologetically about her struggles with mental health and eating disorders.

Ritchie begins with a description of the idyllic life that she and her sisters led on their stepfather's farm, running wild across the huge property. Except for the nights, when she writes (in whispers) about sexual abuse, which robbed her of the ability to sleep soundly for the rest of her life.

The bond between the author and her elder sister, Deena, is described with such sensitivity and beauty that I felt my heart break when Deena started displaying strange behavior and refusing to eat.

I was in despair when the family appeared to fail to act to prevent the disaster unfolding in front of their eyes. Deena grows dangerously close to death and voices in her head keep telling her that men are out to rape her and kill her.

Initially, their mother is described as a character on the sidelines of their life, but later, her motives and aspirations are revealed. Cinthia speaks of how their mother seemed indifferent to the clear warning signs of dysfunction. In retrospect, it appears she was fighting demons of her own.

Cinthia's troubled relationship with food appears to leave a mark on every other aspect of her life. The sense of taste affords immense satisfaction to her. As a child, she eats earth, rocks, and plants. As an adult, she gives in to her animal urges and tastes people and objects to feel connected to them. Episodes of cutting are described on and off throughout the memoir.

By her own admission, Cinthia's version of events is not entirely reliable, so we can only guess which parts are true and which are a product of her traumatized mind.

It is incredibly brave of Cinthia to bare all in her memoir, parts of which may be too graphic for some readers. She has opened herself to judgment by sharing deeply personal information, but she writes with such candor and feeling that I hope readers will view the book for the absolute gem it is.

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Anchorage, Alaska: Prologue

About the author

Cinthia Ritchie is an award-winning Alaska writer and ultrarunner, with work in New York Times Magazine, Evening Street Review, Chicago Tribune, Alaska Magazine, Water-Stone Review, Sport Literate,Memoir and others. Her first novel DOLLS BEHAVING BADLY released through Hachette Book Group, view profile

Published on January 21, 2020

Published by Raised Book Press

40000 words

Genre: Biographies & Memoirs

Reviewed by