This is a harrowing story, told in the first person, of an obsession with food and body image. "One day I will be thin enough", says Josie, the 25 year old anorectic woman who has been hospitalized for life-threatening self-starvation. "Just the bones, . . . the pure, clear shape of me." "One day I will be pure consciousness." The narration spins out in painful detail the pattern of compulsive behavior which pervades Josie’s existence. Her pitifully barren emotional life is revealed as well.

How did it all begin? Flashbacks of significant events invade Josie’s attempts to stop thinking. A shy, awkward adolescent, overly sensitive to casual comments about excess flesh, decides to diet. Josie stumbles non-communicatively through a teen-age sexual initiation to a later affair with her married professor, retreating ever further from her bewildered family.

But why do events take such an extreme turn? The mystery of anorexia nervosa remains. In the hospital, a nurse who has seen everything seems to strike some responsive cord, and Josie begins eating to gain weight. At the end of the novel she’ll soon be released , under supervision, but the outcome is in doubt. "Can I learn to be so present? Can I learn to be so full?" ". . . if I were a body, what would I be?"



Shute has researched the topic and reveals many of the traits which characterize this illness. The author’s narrative technique aptly conveys the preoccupations of the protagonist; obsessive thinking is well delineated and gives a strong sense of how challenging it must be for caregivers to treat such patients.



Hearst: Avon

Place Published

New York


1993 (paperback)

Page Count