The Girl Who Ate Kalamazoo - Darrin Doyle

A feeling of dread moved into McKenna's gut, bringing all of its clothing, trinkets, bedding and toiletries. Dread had settled in to stay.

I received an advance copy of The Girl Who Ate Kalamazoo from St. Martin's Press for review on GeekDad, but subject matter didn't really fit there. I may be able to write it up for a different site instead, but for now I'll review it here.

Imagine, if you will, that a twenty-something girl named Audrey Mapes, apparently normal in every way (except for her missing feet, for which she wears prosthetics or uses crutches), literally ate an entire city. House by house, block by block. It would be in the news, certainly. People would write books about her, about her family, about her upbringing. They would try to pin down some sort of meaning to her actions, to her very existence.

Doyle's book begins with A Note from the Editor presuming just that—that the average reader is sick and tired of hearing about Audrey Mapes, that nobody really needed another book about the Girl Who Ate Kalamazoo more than a decade ago. But! This one is different. Mr. Doyle purchased at auction a box of notes, written by Audrey's sister McKenna, which paints a new picture, a much more intimate, personal look at the family which produced the world's most famous "eatist."

The book is sort of like Audrey: normal except for this inexplicable ability to eat anything and everything. It's not really fantasy or science fiction or even "magical realism"—it's pretty straightforward fiction most of the time. And the writing is excellent: Doyle is a master of the turn of the phrase and makes up analogies and draws connections in unexpected ways.

The Mapeses are a dysfunctional family, and each of them—the parents, the three kids, the grandmother—have their own bizarre qualities and idiosyncrasies. Even though it's told from McKenna's point of view, you never entirely feel sympathetic for her, either. They're just not a very likable bunch, but as enthralling as a train wreck.

The ending left me feeling a little hollow; I was expecting some sort of Owen Meany-like ending, something tying together all the loose ends and imbuing the whole episode with a newly-discovered significance. That didn't really happen, and yet that is its own sort of meaning, I guess. However, other than a sort of dissatisfaction with how it turned out (and that, at least, is very true to life) I really enjoyed reading this. It's an imaginative and remarkable story, spooled out at just the right pace.

Fed to jonathan's brain | January 23, 2010 | Comments (0)


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