The Man Who Couldn't Eat: A Memoir
Author: Jon Reiner
Published: September 6, 2011
Hardcover: 320 pages
Source: won from GoodReads
My Rating: 3 stars
Synopsis (from goodreads.com): Jon Reiner was middle-aged, happily married with two children, living on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, and acclimating to his role as primary parent-caregiver when he suffered a near-fatal collapse due to complications from his chronic battle with Crohn’s disease. From that point, he was forbidden from eating food, fed intravenously, and denied the pleasures of taste, which, as an award-winning food writer, had been a central part of his life. In The Man Who Couldn't Eat, Reiner reinvents the foodoir, recounting what happens when a man obsessed with food cannot eat, and what happened to his family as a result. Coping with illness, unemployment, and financial ruin spun him into a deep depression, straining his relationship with his wife and children. It was this deprivation, ironically, that forced Jon to recognize what he’d been taking for granted. Eloquent and powerful, this is one man’s journey from deprivation and despair to ultimately acceptance and appreciation of what is truly important.
My Thoughts: Being completely honest here, I know very little about Crohn's disease. It's not an illness that gets a lot of publicity (like breast cancer), and while I knew it had something to do with digesting food, I didn't really know anything else. So, when I heard about this book, I was interested to learn a little more about the disease and Jon Reiner's experience of dealing with this disease. Reiner chronicles one year of living with this illness, following an awful episode where his insides burst (literally). He writes with clarity and ease, where his words are organic and not some romantic version of his illness. He is honest in saying how horrible it is, how difficult it is to maintain stability in his sons' lives but still wanting to be a part of the family, how it's not the food, but the act of eating, that he misses the most. His book is insightful and interesting.
The first chapter started a little slowly for me, but it picked up after that. Reiner's story is chronological, starting with the event that led to his year of no food. There are times where he flashes back to his childhood, describing the food of his youth. The family trips to New York City, Thanksgiving with his large Jewish family, exploring the restaurants of the city with his wife. I never realized how much food plays a role in our lives until reading about Reiner's year of doing without. The only thing that I didn't like about this book were that there were a few times where he went on these politcal tirades for a page or so. It really turned me off to his story. For me, if I want to read about politics, I will get a book about it. Just a pet peeve of mine. Other than that, it was an eye-opening book into a disease that many people suffer from but I knew so little about.