Apr 14, 2012


a memoir of anorexia and bulimia
by Marya Hornbacher

Wasted is a first-person narrative about nine or ten years of a severe eating disorder. What began as mere curiosity- what would happen if I do this? - combined with a skewed sense of self-image and body consciousness, the author began binging and purging when she was just nine years old. She tried it again, more and more often until it became a dangerous habit. Overly concerned with her appearance, she obsessed over her weight and food intake. Hornbacher is very scrutinizing about the dynamics of her family and her personality traits that combined to catapult her into a way of life that threatened to destroy her. She chronicles the downward spiral of her health in a very stark manner. I kept thinking: now it will stop, now surely she will listen to all those around her begging her to turn around, but it didn't. Eventually she became anorectic and simple started to starve. The details of what happens to your body when you do that are simply horrifying. I kept feeling astonished that she could be so aware of what was happening to her, and so powerless to stop it at the same time. I wondered at her strong presence of mind, that she could write so clearly about her experiences and feelings; she even read her own medical records and shared in the book what her doctors and therapists had to say about her condition. She was hospitalized and institutionalized on several occasions, started to recover, had relapses, did her best to fool the doctors and continue the destruction of her body. It makes the reader squirm.

Quite a few of the reviewers on Amazon decry this book with alarm- they say in the hands of the wrong person it can enable someone to do this to themselves, because it goes into such honest detail about how the author fed her disease. I know I'm not going to let my daughter read it until she's an adult, and I'm not one to censor her reading by any means. You might ask: why keep it on the shelf at all? but I found it an astonishing read, a valuable one- and it is so well-written. So eloquent, vivid, precise. (She's also a reader, one who took solace in books, which made me sympathize, and liberal quotes from Alice in Wonderland sprinkled throughout, which I loved). I don't want to get rid of the book, I just want to be careful. My daughter, only seven, is already quite conscious of her body image and occasionally asks me if she weighs too much or little (she doesn't, either one). I just don't want her getting any unhealthy ideas from this book.

This book is powerful, frightening and utterly riveting. I had a difficult time putting it down, even though several times I wanted to stop reading. Sometimes I had to take a break when a particular description just made me feel sickened, but I always picked it up again, had to know how far she went, how she recovered, where she stood now.

She is no longer dying, but doesn't sound completely healthy yet, either- according to what the afterword relates. It seems that this disease is one that never really leaves one, even when you think you have overcome it.

Picked up this one at a library sale, on a whim. I think this is a book Nymeth ought to read....

rating: 4/5 ........ 298 pages, 1998

more opinions:
Women and Writing
Crazy Girl Reads
It's Couch Time


bermudaonion said...

Wow, it's so sad to think of children that young worrying about body image. This sounds like a tough, albeit, worthwhile read.

Dana said...

put on my wishlist

Jenny said...

Oh this sounds so terribly sad. It's tragic what our society's obsession with body image can do to young girls.