We read a great deal of fiction books that dissect the American family.
We like these books for their relatability; their portrayal of fictional characters in all-too-real situations; their gritty and honest details.
In The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls by Anissa Gray, we are presented with another American family, broken apart by circumstances and choices. It was a novel of how one family can endure so much pain, especially when it is initiated by those same family members.
This is not a warm and fuzzy family story. This is a story of sacrifice and selfishness; of trauma and coping; of pain and suffering. Can a family overcome so much and still remain whole?
I think the best answer is found later in the novel, but let’s start at the beginning.
The story centers around the Butler sisters – Althea, Lillian, and Viola.
Their lives are all upended when Althea and her husband Proctor are arrested for various charges of fraud and embezzlement. They started a charity with the best of intentions, but temptation and greed found them skimming funds into their own pockets. Althea was always the strong matriarch of the family after their mother’s death when they were young. Her mistakes and downfall have repercussions for everyone.
Lillian becomes a caregiver to her teenage nieces overnight. Her own life has been at a standstill for years; she lost her husband and has been caring for her blunt, strict mother-in-law. She is thrust into the parenting of two children who are angry and hurting from the damage to their lives. But Lillian is also hurting from past events and relationships within the family.
Viola is called into town for assistance, but she also has her own demons to bear. She is separated from her wife and living a hypocritical life as a therapist with an ongoing eating disorder. She is angry at Althea for events in the past and present, and she is forced to address these if she wants to help her nieces.
The most relatable part of this novel is the relationships.
All are complex and interwoven through years of experience. There are good moments but also very bad moments. Our readers noted that the age differences between the sisters and their brother Joe may have contributed to some of the divisions.
Charlotte noted, ‘The further apart you are in age from a given sibling can contribute to misunderstanding. If the age difference is too great, often you don’t have things in common, which can be challenging.’
There are secrets in every family, and the Butlers have their share.
There were painful incidents between Joe and Lillian; these events left scars that are difficult to mend as they finally come to light. Althea and Viola always clashed, but Ashley pointed out that the two never really saw each other clearly. Althea had to grow up too quickly; Viola didn’t want a surrogate mother but a sister.
The takeaway from these relatable characters is that family is everything but does not have to be those you are related to by blood. There are some things that cannot be forgiven, and there are some things that can be mended. Everyone is flawed and makes mistakes; all emotions are valid; family is supportive and loving BUT family does not provide automatic forgiveness or immunity.
The Butler family has an upheaval in their lives that changes everything – but not necessarily all negatively. Curious about how the sisters managed? Read The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls by Annisa Gray. Our club enjoyed it – we think you will too.