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Submitted Literature

Hunger Point

By Jillian Medoff

Review

Jillian Medoff’s novel is a multilayered tale that explores two elements of mental health that are all too commonly seen – anorexia and suicide. The novel is narrated by Frannie, whose sister Shelly – a high achieving trainee lawyer – suffers from anorexia.  Beginning with the familial induction of eating disordered behaviour – the mother’s constant focus on food, denial of food through dieting and obsession with both her and her daughter’s weights – the novel moves through Shelly’s decline, apparent recovery and subsequent suicide following discharge from hospital.  The second half of the novel explores the family’s devastated and fragmented response to Shelly’s suicide – Frannie experiences a major depression, her mother leaves family home and enters therapy, while her father attempts to continue life as normal but struggles to do so.  Also explored in this poignant and bittersweet novel are more common dysfunctional behaviours – Frannie has issues with food herself, binge drinks on a regular basis, engages in reckless behaviour such as unprotected sex and drink driving, and suffers from dysthymia and lack of motivation.

Key Themes:

  • Bereavement
  • Carer Issues
  • Eating Disorders
  • Self-Injury
  • Suicidality

Significant Quotes / Pages

20 – “It wasn’t until last June that she started to disappear.  When she passed out on the beach, I knew she was in a bad way, but I attributed it to a combination of the anxiety that comes with being out of school for a year and our grandmother dying.  But as the months went by, Shelly continued to lose weight.  My mother and I tried to talk to her, but she told us that she had things on her mind, that she had started seeing a therapist, and we should mind our own business.  So we did.  In our defence, she was always bulked up in clothes, so we never actually saw her body.  And she didn’t do anything weird with her food, she didn’t exercise obsessively, she didn’t drone on about how fat she was.  She simply stopped eating, and over the year, she got thinner.  And thinner.  And thinner.  Since there was no drama, I never felt comfortable confronting her.”

117 – “ ‘I’m not crazy, Fannie. I just start to think about all that I have to do.  And the only way I can contain it is to keep my patterns: my calories in order, my weight down.  But in here, they fuck with my patterns.  So my head gets all twisted and I have this constant whirring, like a fan is on inside it.  It’s just going all day long, this huge fan, like a hum.  But in my body, I can’t feel anything.  So I cut myself, just to feel something. They’re making a much bigger deal of it than it is.’”

Reference: Jillian, Medoff. 1997. Hunger Point. New York: Harper Collins, 1998

Reviewer

- Charley Baker
Date Review Submitted: Monday 23rd March 2009