When Hungry, Eat, Joanne Fedler

ImageWe all know that when it comes to writing, Fedler has a gift. It’s a gift that comes in a large box and when you peel away the wrapping, you realise that it’s the kind of gift that gives endlessly, that unfolds slowly over time, that touches you in places you didn’t know existed. This is what makes Fedler one of THOSE kinds of writers. You know the type I mean, a writer to envy, with passion that pulses in the shallow surface below her words; a writer who means what she says and says what she means and then dresses it up as though the words are going to the Oscars or some equally brazen event where people sparkle and someone talented like my beautiful cousin Gita Bass does their make up.

I read this book in one sitting, punctuated by about 7 hours of sleep which struck when I seriously couldn’t hold off any longer – and I tried, really I did. 

There was so much about this book that made me tingle. Clearly I related to Fedler’s story: my parents decided we were going to immigrate when I was about 14 years old and my brother and I were so angry with them that we didn’t speak to them for quite some time. I remember feeling as though they had stolen something primal from me and for a very long time it felt that way. So I empathised with the essence of Fedler’s story because it too was my story, and the story of so many people I know.

Fedler’s honesty in this book took my breath away. She writes so frankly about her family and herself that I felt at times as though I had crawled into her skin and was walking with her, a mile in her shoes so to speak. I still can’t shake the notion that if I bumped into her Granny Bee in Heaven I would know her simply by her gait, perched on high heels, immaculate with an egg lifter balanced against perfectly manicured nails. 

But at the same time I feel as though Fedler is somewhat of an enigma. She writes what could be described as popular fiction but with a flair of magnitude that is simply breath taking. Her books are filled with awe inspiring words of wisdom:

“I don’t believe God punishes sin … Personally, I prefer ‘There’s no such thing as a free lunch’. You can call the bill that arrives in the post ‘punishment’ or ‘karma’, but you still have to pay it.

I don’t know if God answers prayers or creates miracles. For my part … I have always spoken to God easily, but that could just be me… I also believe that if we pray for the ‘right’ things, like insight, wisdom and strength to deal with the problems and crises of our lives, then our prayers will surely be answered. Praying to win the Lotto or for a Mercedes hatchback is putting a call through to the wrong department. Isn’t that Santa Claus’s jurisdiction?”


How true. That we should all pray for the strength to live through all that God sends us and Fedler’s prayers have clearly been answered. 

I could continue waxing lyrical about the various achievements of this book. I could explain to you the mammoth contribution that Fedler made to the position of many women in South Africa, I could tell you of her battle with food, the trials of her moving across the world with her small family, trying to recreate a life for herself and for them while battling her own demons. I could tell you about her love for her family, her parents, grandparents, her intense passion for her Jewish identity. But that would all be for naught. I will simply say: READ THIS BOOK. Stop everything, go to the nearest library, bookstore, website, friend and READ THIS BOOK. Beg, borrow or steal it. But read it. You will not be sorry. I certainly wasn’t.


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