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Milk Fed

A Novel

LIST PRICE $13.99

A Most-Anticipated Selection by Vogue * Refinery29 * Vulture * BuzzFeed * Harper’s Bazaar * O, The Oprah Magazine * The Millions * Literary Hub * The Rumpus * Publishers Weekly and more

A scathingly funny, wildly erotic, and fiercely imaginative story about food, sex, and god from the acclaimed author of The Pisces and So Sad Today.

Rachel is twenty-four, a lapsed Jew who has made calorie restriction her religion. By day, she maintains an illusion of existential control, by way of obsessive food rituals, while working as an underling at a Los Angeles talent management agency. At night, she pedals nowhere on the elliptical machine. Rachel is content to carry on subsisting—until her therapist encourages her to take a ninety-day communication detox from her mother, who raised her in the tradition of calorie counting.

Early in the detox, Rachel meets Miriam, a zaftig young Orthodox Jewish woman who works at her favorite frozen yogurt shop and is intent upon feeding her. Rachel is suddenly and powerfully entranced by Miriam—by her sundaes and her body, her faith and her family—and as the two grow closer, Rachel embarks on a journey marked by mirrors, mysticism, mothers, milk, and honey.

Pairing superlative emotional insight with unabashed vivid fantasy, Broder tells a tale of appetites: physical hunger, sexual desire, spiritual longing, and the ways that we as humans can compartmentalize these so often interdependent instincts. Milk Fed is a tender and riotously funny meditation on love, certitude, and the question of what we are all being fed, from one of our major writers on the psyche—both sacred and profane.

This reading group guide for Milk Fed includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.

Introduction

Rachel is a lapsed Jew and obsessive calorie-counter. She’s overwhelmed by her attraction to Miriam, who works at the frozen yogurt shop Rachel frequents every day. Miriam begins to fall for Rachel too, but Miriam is Orthodox and takes great joy in eating. With a golem, an ancient mystic rabbi, a wicked mother, and some truly wild erotic fantasies, Milk Fed is a tender and riotously funny meditation on love, certitude, and the question of what we are all being fed.

Topics & Questions for Discussion

1. This book is partially about extreme dieting and disordered eating. As a group, discuss this phenomenon. Have you encountered other fiction about food, and how has it affected you?

2. Before Rachel meets Miriam, how do you feel about her?

3. What is Ana’s role in Rachel’s life? What do you make of Rachel’s mental state when you read about her fantasy involving Ana (pages 27–29)?

4. On page 18, Rachel refers to her mother “opening an emotional spreadsheet.” What does this metaphor mean? How does it compare to Rachel’s relationship with her father (chapter 13)?

5. What is Rachel’s impression of Miriam when she meets Miriam for the first time?

6. Take a moment to discuss the cadence of dialogue in Milk Fed. How does the author use it to reveal more about Rachel, Miriam, and the supporting cast?

7. On page 54, Rachel loses the sculpture her therapist asked her to create. What do you think is the significance of this?

8. In chapter 36, Rachel ponders how the Schwebels would react to Miriam coming out to them, and contrasts it with the way her own mother responded. What is the significance of the imagined differences in these parental responses?

9. Throughout Milk Fed, Rachel fantasizes about Miriam. Do you think there’s a big difference between her fantasy of Miriam and the actual, real Miriam?

10. Discuss the various appearances of Rabbi Judah Loew ben Bezalel. What do they signal? What’s happening to Rachel when she sees the rabbi in her subconscious?

11. How do Rachel and Miriam observe their Jewish faith differently? How does that layer of culture add to Milk Fed? Are there religious references that you were compelled to research?

12. How does her relationship with Miriam fundamentally change Rachel?

Enhance Your Book Club

1. Read more of Melissa Broder’s books! Her first novel is The Pisces, another obsessive love story that’s both sexy and hilarious, but this time involving a merman.

2. Have a Yo!Good-style sundae buffet—the host can provide the frozen yogurt, and everyone else can bring their favorite toppings to share (see who makes the most Miriam-like sundae).

3. As the moderator in your group, obtain a copy of Melissa Broder’s poetry collection Last Sext. Have a reading party at the end of your book club and pass the collection around, each person reading a poem or two aloud. Nibble on some Twizzlers while you’re at it!
Photograph by Petra Collins

Melissa Broder is the author of the novel The Pisces, the essay collection So Sad Today and four poetry collections, including Last Sext. She has written for The New York Times, Elle.com, VICE, Vogue Italia, and New York magazine’s “The Cut.” Her poems have appeared in POETRY, The Iowa Review, Tin House, and Guernica, and she is the winner of a Pushcart Prize for poetry. She lives in Los Angeles. Follow her on Twitter @SoSadToday and @MelissaBroder and Instagram @RealMelissaBroder.

"An erotic, singular experience that could only come from Broder's mind... brimming with tension, and food, and fantasies." —Isaac Fitzgerald, "The Today Show"

Hilarious, lush and sorrowful…the short, tart, candid chapters are like snacks, and the reader cannot help but reach for another until it is gone…This work is unafraid of vulnerability, and appetite, and loss.”
—Jackie Thomas-Kennedy, The Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Captivating…delicious and depraved…a ruthless, laugh-out-loud examination of life under the tyranny of diet culture... You will eat this up, run to buy a copy for a friend, and realize with a sigh that every one of your friends needs this book in her life.” 
Glamour

"A delectable exploration of physical and emotional hunger...  combines Broder's singular style with adventures of the calorie- and climax-filled kind, sumptuous fillings surrounded by perfectly baked plot." —Bethanne Patrick, The Washington Post

“Profoundly sexy yet deeply sad…Milk Fed gathers strands of faith, hunger, queerness, lust, and loneliness and braids them into a fully risen challah of human experience.”
—Emma Specter, Vogue 

 "Anything by Melissa Broder is an immediate must-read... a precise blend of desire, discomfort, spirituality, and existential ache makes Broder’s depiction of the human experience so canny.
—Arianna Rebolini, Buzzfeed

 “A thrilling examination of hunger, desire, faith, family and love.”
—Time Magazine

“Bravely questions the particularly female lionization of thin and loathing of fat, landing on fresh explanations…deliciously droll… a celebration of bodily liberation.”
The New York Times

"Clever, thoughtful, and erotic."
Bust 

“A Freudian fable of sorts, one that is hilarious, self-deprecating and full of Broder's signature profligate brilliance. This visceral and transporting portrait of self-denial and its twin, excess, sheds light on the psychology underpinning the American obsession with weight. Daring, chaotic and pleasingly heretical, Milk Fed is the work of a total pro.” 
—Emma Levy, Shelf Awareness

“If you’re going to read one book this February, make it this one… Milk Fed is brutally funny, poetic, and at times, totally bizarre…Broder writes with the kind of unfiltered honesty that lives deep inside of us”
—Gina Vaynshteyn, Apartment Therapy 

"A delicious new novel that ravishes with sex and food... Broder has a rare ability to ground her fantasy in reality without undermining her imaginative vision, making it feel personal and raw and relatable... with humanity, sardonic wit, and erotic scenes so potent that the heat of my blushing face made my NYC-apartment radiator’s seem tepid, Milk-Fed vividly evokes the lives of each woman, so that we’re fully invested in them."
—Kera Bolonik, Boston Globe

"A romp... a pageant of bodily juices and exploratory fingers and moan after moan of delight... [from] a wild, wicked mind."
—Hillary Kelly, The Los Angeles Times

"Explores hunger in all its permutations through the eyes of Rachel, who begins a romance with a woman who works at the frozen yogurt shop she frequents. As their relationship deepens, so does Rachel’s capacity for nourishment and pleasure, bodily and spiritually." 
The New York Times

“A revelation...Melissa Broder has produced one of the strangest and sexiest novels of the new year...exhilarating.”
—Leah Greenblatt, Entertainment Weekly 

“Deeply hilarious and embarrassingly relatable.”
—Samantha Irby, author of Wow, No Thank You

"Milk Fed hits that sweet spot where pleasure and tension intersect, where the sumptuous exploration of sexuality and spirit meets the rigidities of culture and society. Strange and surreal, Broder's writing is a marvel of wit, heart, and thoughtful curiosity about the body and mind and how these things can overflow their boundaries to become utterly new."
—Alexandra Kleeman, author of You Too Could Have a Body Like Mine

Milk Fed is a novel of appetites; a luscious, heartbreaking story of self-discovery through the relentless pursuit of desire. I couldn’t get enough of this devastating and extremely sexy book.” 
—Carmen Maria Machado, author of In the Dream House

"Broder's funny, semi-sweet writing will leave you ravenous for more."
—The Week

"Only Melissa Broder could dig into our obsessions, the ways our parents have ruined us, and blossoming queer love with such a bold panache."
—Lit Hub

"Few writers so innately understand or better capture the endless, palpable hunger that so many people carry around with them, day after day. This hunger is for food, for sex, for love, for compassion, for understanding, and it is this kind of ravenous appetite that Broder explores in her exultant new novel... riotously funny and perfectly profane." 
—Refinery 29

"A dizzily compelling story of love, lust, addiction, faith, maternal longing, and...frozen yogurt... Broder’s sex writing is, as always, first-rate, but perhaps even more striking is her ability to lay bare the frantic interior calculus of disordered eating alongside the hypnotic pull of spirituality."
—Vogue 

"A sensuous and delightfully delirious tale... Filled with an unadulterated filthiness that would make Philip Roth blush, Broder's latest is a devour-it-in-one-sitting wonder.”
—O, The Oprah Magazine

"Bold, wry, and delightfully dirty... Broder is a formidable writer. She captures all the sticky sweetness, the pleasurable tensions between yearning and satiation...  a sad, funny romp about learning to let yourself want what you want."
—Kirkus

"Spell-caster Broder guides readers through this seriously tender tale of transformation with seamless humor and staggering smarts: it contains multitudes. An empathic, enrapturing, unputdownable novel of faith, sex, love, and nurture."
Booklist, starred review

"With luscious descriptions of delectable foods and fantastical romps through imagination, Milk Fed oscillates between serious and playful, obsessive and free, and explores the difficulties of loving oneself in a world that prizes thinness above all else. This poignant exploration of desire, religion, and daughterhood is hard to resist.”
Publishers Weekly

“Sin as self-discovery, appetite as insight, transgression as transformation, Milk Fed is at once hilarious and heartbreaking; watching Broder's characters try to love themselves might just make you love yourself.... or at least hate yourself a little less." 
Shalom Auslander, author of Mother for Dinner

"Smart, funny, sexy, and hard to put down. In this fast-moving, deeply compelling novel, Melissa Broder combines an unexpected (and very hot) love story with a sharp-edged examination of body image, religion, and cultural identity." 
—Tom Perrotta, author of Mrs. Fletcher

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