Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Review: The Man Who Couldn't Eat by Jon Reiner

ISBN #: 978-1439192467
Page Count: 320
Copyright: 2011

Book Summary:
(Taken from dust jacket flaps)

Food is not just sustenance.  It is memories, a lobster roll on the beach in Maine; heritage, hot pastrami club with a half-sour pickle; guilty pleasures, a chocolate rum-soaked Bundt cake; identity, vegetarian or carnivore.  Food is the sensuality of a ripe strawberry or a pork chop sizzling on the grill.  But what if the very thing that keeps you alive, that bonds us together and marks occasions in our lives, became a toxic substance, an inflammatory invader?  In this beautifully written memoir, both gut-wrenching and inspiring, award-winning writer Jon Reiner explores our complex and often contradictory relationship with food as he tells the story of his agonizing battle with Crohn's disease - and the extraordinary places his hunger and obsession with food took him.

The Man Who Couldn't Eat is an unvarnished account of a marriage in crisis, children faced with grown-up fears, a man at a life-and-death crossroads sifting through his past and his present.  And it shows us a tough, courageous climb out of despair and hopelessness.  Aided by the loving kindness of family, friends and strangers and by a new approach to food, Reiner began a process of healing in body and mind.  Most of all, he chose life - and a renewed appetite, any way he could manage it, for the things that truly matter most.

Charlene's Review:

The Man Who Couldn't Eat describes life with a chronic disease in a straight-forward way.  Diagnosed with Crohn's disease, and it's completely devastating impact on his body, Mr. Reiner has to come to terms with limitations so severe that most of us could not even envision facing them, not to mention the impact on his family and relationship to the world.  The first chapter opens with a medical crisis and engrosses you, as you travel through Mr. Reiner's life as he grapples to deal with his "new normal," and not always in the most gracious of ways.

Mr. Reiner has an enviable writing style.  His ability to see inside himself so deeply, and explain openly, the affects of NPO (no food by mouth) on his body, mind, and family, is humbling.  This memoir is sprinkled with raw emotion, sharp humor, and insights into a world that is dominated by social eating.  His flashbacks to his family gatherings, and the detailed menus, show how much of our memories are formed around the table.  His favorite, repeated saying in the book is "tell me what you crave and I'll tell you what you are."  I believe this has never been more true than in this fast-paced world.  The thoughts that resounded with me after reading The Man Who Couldn't Eat were that everyone struggles with food, for whatever reason, should read this book.  I also believe it would be a great read for people who are watching people in their life struggling with food, as Mr. Reiner paints a vivid picture of how food rules our world.  A story of pain, isolation, and ultimately, redemption.

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