Ruth Simon is dying of a terminal hunger. As her body wastes away, so too does her future. Joseph, her lover, is locked into her struggle, feeding off her illness and using her weakness to heal his diminishing self-esteem. Tormented by the sudden death of his sister, he throws himself into the attempt to heal Ruth. Rosen exposes the personal demons, the pain and longing of his characters, allowing us to feel the terrifiying emptiness that consumes them.
By focusing on the emotions and pyschology of his characters, Rosen avoids writing a mere case study. The story is told through Joseph's eyes, giving an unusual male perspective on the female search for perfection. His need to understand leads us into the secret world of Ruth's diary: "She barely had to tickle her pink throat. Like sex ... better than sex ... it felt good afterwards, to step on the scale, 109. One pound less than before dinner."
Counterpointing this lonely vigil is a cast of vibrant, empathetic char acters. Through Dr Flek, a retired psychoanalyist, Rosen explores the philosophy of food, and our obsession with it. Flek emerges as the voice of truth, exposing the futility of Joseph's desperate search for a solution: "the things that make us human often make us ill." His mix of reason and acute sensitvity opens the private world of anorexia to the reader.
This is an exceptional novel. Rosen uses poetic prose to capture the tragedy of Ruth's eternal hunger, leaving us drained of emotion yet strangely inspired. In the battle between love and hunger, it is emotion, not obsession, that triumphs.