Melissa Broder, the acclaimed author of The Pisces and So Sad Today, has given us an erotic and indulgent novel about food, sex, and god, with Milk Fed. With themes of sexuality, family and eating disorders there is much to contend with in quite clearly a contemporary setting, and Broder does it wilfully.
Rachel is twenty-four, a lapsed Jew who has made calorie restriction her religion. By day, she maintains an illusion of existential control, by way of obsessive food rituals, while working as an underling at a Los Angeles talent management agency. However, her therapist encourages her to take a ninety-day communication detox from her mother, who raised her in the tradition of calorie counting, whilst also prodding her to take a healthier approach to eating. However, it soon becomes clear that due to upbringing there is no healthy approach to eating with Rachel.
Early in her detox, Rachel meets Miriam, a young Orthodox Jewish woman who works at her favourite frozen yogurt shop and is clearly a feeder. It’s not long before Rachel is entranced and seduced by the way that Miriam eats but not only this—also her body, her faith and her family—and as the two grow closer, Rachel embarks on a journey marked by mirrors, mysticism, mothers, milk, and honey.
Pairing a contemporary setting with sheer indulgent fantasy, Broder offers a tale of appetites: physical hunger, sexual desire, spiritual longing, and the ways that we as humans can compartmentalize these so often interdependent instincts. Milk Fed is a tender and erogenous meditation on certitude, sexuality and healthy living, with many layers, subtexts and metaphors present between the lines. A riotous yet frivolous read, there is still much to get from Broder’s most recent novel, as we learn about Rachel and the upbringing that has brought about her contentions, and oft negative view of the world.
Milk Fed is out now, published by Bloomsbury.