Thursday, October 27, 2016

Book Review: Hungry Heart by Jennifer Weiner

Pages: 432
Genre: Memoir
Pub. Date: October 11, 2016
Publisher: Atria
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "Jennifer Weiner is many things: a #1 New York Times bestselling author, a Twitter phenomenon, and “an unlikely feminist enforcer” (The New Yorker). She’s also a mom, a daughter, and a sister; a former rower and current cyclist; a best friend and a reality TV junkie. In her first foray into nonfiction, she takes the raw stuff of her personal life and spins into a collection of essays on modern womanhood as uproariously funny and moving as the best of Tina Fey, Fran Lebowitz, and Nora Ephron. Jennifer grew up as an outsider in her picturesque Connecticut hometown (“a Lane Bryant outtake in an Abercrombie & Fitch photo shoot”) and at her Ivy League college, but finally found her people in newsrooms in central Pennsylvania and Philadelphia, and her voice as a novelist, activist, and New York Times columnist. No subject is off-limits in this intimate and honest essay collection: sex, weight, envy, money, her mom’s newfound lesbianism, and her estranged father’s death. From lonely adolescence to modern childbirth to hearing her six-year-old daughter’s use of the f-word—fat­­—for the first time, Jennifer Weiner goes there, with the wit and candor that have endeared her to readers all over the world. By turns hilarious and deeply touching, this collection shows that the woman behind treasured novels like Good in Bed and Best Friends Forever is every bit as winning, smart, and honest in real life as she is in her fiction."
Jennifer Weiner's memoir is a detailed glimpse into her life that starts when she is a young child all the way to present day. Readers get to know Jennifer as a precocious child living in her Connecticut hometown; she has always felt out of place though and skipping a grade only made this much more challenging for her socially.  Plus, she never felt like she fit in since she wasn't slim and classically pretty like her sister and her family was a bit quirky, not to mention Jewish, which, apparently, wasn't the norm in her town.  She examines the sometimes trying relationships with her family, especially her father.  As she goes to college at Princeton, Weiner shares her experiences as an aspiring writer, her classes as well as the goals she set for herself after college. But this memoir isn't just about school and family.  Weiner focuses on marriage, motherhood, parenting. love, miscarriage, and her struggles with her weight.  As a woman, I appreciated many aspects of Hungry Heart and and as a fan of Weiner's sarcasm and honesty, I appreciated the memoir even more.

The best parts of Hungry Heart are Weiner's essays on her family. That's the really good stuff if you ask me. I loved learning more about her relationship with her mother, Fran, and why she eventually came out after many years in a marriage to Weiner's dad. And then there's her strained relationship with her father. It was interesting to read about how all of this impacted her world.  Her father is quite troubled, which was new information to me, so I was really curious about that aspect of her life.


Some of the essays in Hungry Heart, I wasn't as interested in as others, such as her preoccupation with weight.  While I appreciate her sentiments about being healthy rather than skinny, I still found the focus to be a bit too much at times and a little too detailed.


On the other hand, I enjoyed figuring out where Weiner got her writing material.  As I was reading more and more about her life experiences, I realized that she pulled many of her characters and her situations from her own life as authors often do. It was fun to get that type of back story and make that connection.   I also enjoyed some of her more painful essays on miscarriage (more people should talk about and don't!), which I applaud Weiner for talking about such a difficult topic. I could also connect to her essay on the challenges of raising little ones and trying to do it all. This essay in particular should be required reading for new moms when leaving the hospital. 


Weiner is known for her honesty and I love that about her. I also appreciate her feminist viewpoint and her stance on issues, so Hungry Heart was right up my alley. I love reading memoirs from time to time, because it's comforting to know that we have something in common as women. We all struggle, we all eventually fall, and we all pick ourselves back up just as Weiner did. 

She says, "These are my stories about hunger and satisfaction, about falling down and getting up and moving on.  They're stories about learning, slowly but surely, that the grace isn't in the happily-ever-after but in the fall, and the pain, the bruised knees and bloody palms, and then the sheepish scramble back onto your feet."
Fans of Weiner will wholeheartedly appreciate Hungry Heart, but even so, I think many women will also appreciate its uplifting message.



4 comments:

  1. Nice review! I've read some of her novels and liked them. I don't read memoirs very often but it is interesting to read about authors and how their lives impact their work. Sounds like there are some gems in this collection. I may give it a try sometime.

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    1. Thanks, Christina! This memoir/book of essays was really entertaining! Thanks for visiting!

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  2. Oh. I didn't even know this was a memoir of sorts. Very interesting!

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    1. It definitely was - it had me laughing out loud for sure. You'd appreciate the essays on motherhood, Joy. Thanks for visiting!

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