Book Review: How to be Eaten

Five women who are strangers, but not unknown to each other, meet in the basement of a New York City rec center having accepted an invitation to participate in a new type of talk therapy. Narrative therapy, the group’s facilitator Will claims, will help treat these women who have experienced public trauma. There is Ruby, who wears the threadbare and stinking coat of the wolf that tried to eat her. Bernice escaped her tech billionaire boyfriend’s house before he could turn her, like his other ex-girlfriends, into furniture. Thin and stoic Gretel went missing with her brother and then claimed to have been living with a woman in a candy house. Ashlee, a recent contestant on a reality marriage show, doesn’t understand why no one else understands that hers is a love story. There is also perfect and put-together Raina, whose story no one knows until the very end.

For fans of grown-up retellings and fractured fairy tales, Maria Adelmann’s How to Be Eaten is like Angela Carter’s classic The Bloody Chamber for the reality television generation. Touching on topics such as victim-blaming, consent, and female agency, Adelmann's heroines are complicated, memorable and - as the reader will hope - redeemable. Modernizing the warnings given to generation after generation of girls and women about how to protect themselves from those meaning them harm, How to Be Eaten takes turns the reader won’t expect and isn’t scared to showcase the self-pity, self-harm and self-destruction these publicly shamed women resort to in the face of those who want to watch, but don’t want to see. - Jami (Downtown)

How to Be Eaten