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Cover image for Crave : a memoir of food and longing / Christine S. O'Brien.
Title:
Crave : a memoir of food and longing / Christine S. O'Brien.
Title Variants:
Memoir of food and longing
ISBN:
9781250128836
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : St. Martin's Press, 2018.

©2018
Physical Description:
viii, 260 pages ; 22 cm
Abstract:
Hunger comes in many forms. O'Brien grew up in NYC's famous Dakota apartments. Her father, Ed Scherick, was an ABC television executive and film producer; her mother, Carol, a former a Miss Missouri and a finalist place in The Miss America Contest. But, having been injured in a farming accident when she was a girl, Carol craved health even though doctors told her that she was perfectly fine. Her tyranny of the dinner table led Christine to her own cravings for family, for food and for the words to tell the story of her hunger. -- adapted from publisher info.
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Summary

Summary

"Do you mind that I'm going to be writing a book about the fact that I was hungry?" I asked my mother. "Just tell a good story," she replied.

Hunger comes in many forms. In her memoir, Crave , Christine S. O'Brien tells a story of family turmoil and incessant hunger hidden behind the luxury and privilege of New York's famed Dakota apartment building. Her explosively angry father was ABC Executive Ed Scherick, the successful television and film producer who created shows and films like ABC's Wide World of Sports and The Stepford Wives . Raised on farm in the Midwest, her calm, beautiful mother Carol narrowly survived a dramatic accident when she was child. There was no hint of instability in her life until one day she collapsed in the family's apartment and spent the next year in bed. "Your mother's illness is not physical," Christine's father tells her.

Craving a cure for a malady that the doctors said had no physical basis, Carol resorted to increasingly bizarre nutritional diets--from raw liver to fresh yeast--before beginning a rigid dietary regime known as "The Program." It consisted largely of celery juice and blended salads -- a forerunner of today's smoothie. Determined to preserve the health of her family, Carol insisted that they follow The Program. Despite their constant hunger, Christine and her three younger brothers loyally followed their mother's eating plan, even as their father's rage grew and grew. The more their father screamed, the more their mother's very survival seemed to depend on their total adherence to The Program.

This well-meant tyranny of the dinner table led Christine to her own cravings for family, for food, and for the words to tell the story of her hunger. Crave is the chronicle of Christine's painful and ultimately satisfying awakening. And, just as her mother asked, it's a good story.


Author Notes

Christine S. O'Brien earned a BA in English at UC Berkeley and holds a Double MFA from Saint Mary's College in Nonfiction and Fiction, where she was awarded Saint Mary's Agnes Butler Scholarship for Literary Excellence. Her essays and short stories have appeared in The Seneca Review and The Slush Pile Magazine, and her work received an Honorable Mention in Glimmer Train's Short Story Award for New Writers. O'Brien has worked for ABC-TV, Alex Ponti, and NBC Productions. She is currently a part-time lecturer in the English Composition Department at Saint Mary's College and lives in Walnut Creek, California, with her husband and two children. Crave is her first book.


Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

In this emotionally fraught memoir, O'Brien writes of growing up following an unorthodox and rigid dietary routine enforced by her mother, a former Miss Missouri. After suffering for years from a variety of undiagnosed medical issues, O'Brien's mother treated herself with food restrictions instead of medicine, consuming various concoctions of yeast, vitamins, and enzymes. She eventually put the entire family-O'Brien, her three brothers, and her television executive father-on "the Program," which consisted of "celery juice, blended salad, steamed vegetables, and rice. Breakfast, lunch, dinner." Her mother taught her and her brothers that meat, dairy, and any processed foods were poison, and soon they feared to eat anything outside the diet. In college, O'Brien felt guilty whenever she ate outside of the program, and became bulimic; as an adult, she married, and tried to follow a more conventional diet yet continued to struggle with food, even after the death of her mother. O'Brien subtly, and with dark humor, weaves in anecdotes of the many celebrities her family encountered, including actress Rachel Roberts, who, with her cat, stayed with her family for two weeks and followed the eating regimen: "After that she will... go home and swallow a fatal number of sleeping pills. We keep the cat." O'Brien affectingly captures a family's troubled relationship with food. (Nov.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


New York Review of Books Review

O'Brien's father is Edgar Scherick, a celebrated producer of television and film. Her mother, Carol, slips from one identity to another, but always ambitiously: The Missouri farm girl morphs into a Miss America pageant finalist, the upper-class New York wife rebels and becomes a natural food devotee. O'Brien and her brothers live in the Dakota and trick-or-treat along the building's forbidding hallways, getting Tootsie Pops from Lauren Bacall. This is one version of a 20th-century fairy tale. The fable has a dark side. O'Brien's father is given to terrifying outbursts of anger when under stress, which is often. Her mother suffers from a series of health problems, which she begins managing with food. Embarking on a lifetime of restrictive diets, Carol decides that her family will come along for the ride. Soon the children are put on "The Program" by an unlicensed doctor whose Mafioso clients keep watch on the street lest he be jailed. From then on, the kids are sustained - barely - by blended salads, celery juice, egg yolks and the occasional handful of nuts. It's remarkable how little anger O'Brien conveys in relating her mother's disordered approach to eating. The children follow Carol's instructions more or less obediently, despite being divided from normal society by their inability to enjoy simple treats. When O'Brien caves and eats a Ho Ho, she's horrified at having "erased my hard work and all the purity" she had worked for. Perfection seems to be the price of her mother's affection, an exchange that will have lifelong repercussions for O'Brien's relationship to food. The story drags at times. O'Brien's father seems always to be "whiny" and "high-pitched" when on the verge of rage. Reading about a diet of puréed vegetables is almost as tiresome as living on one. But O'Brien describes her unusual childhood with loving generosity. She captures her father's vulnerability and creative brilliance, and recognizes her mother's pioneering, seeking spirit. After all, this was a woman who embraced Ayurveda, meditation and co-op shopping long before they became mainstream. The family's story is one of renunciation, but not, ultimately, one of hunger.


Library Journal Review

Food and family play out on the forefront of this memoir from O'Brien (English, St. Mary's Coll.), who struggles to find herself and happiness alongside domineering, television executive father Edgar and controlling, former beauty queen mother Carol. In an effort to cure ailments and fortify her family, Carol places everyone on "The Program," a diet regimen consisting of fruit juices, blended salads, and egg yolks. Here begins O'Brien's challenges with cravings; a psychological demon that spreads beyond the kitchen and into her relationships with friends and her body. In an effort to achieve purity, O'Brien is racked with guilt each time she strays from "The Program," at last indulging and satisfying her constant hunger. After becoming a mother herself and understanding the dangers posed to her own children, she comes to empathize with her mother's need to control and protect her family with food. The development of her own wellness plan, designed to fulfill her nutritional and emotional needs, is a lifelong battle that she seems to overcome through constant reflections on her life. VERDICT A thoroughly engaging memoir; recommended where memoirs circulate widely.-Mattie Cook, Flat River Community Lib., MI © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


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