The author of The Pisces returns with a novel about disordered eater Rachel, who finds herself falling for Miriam, the Orthodox Jewish woman who works at her favorite yogurt shop and helps Rachel learn to honor her own desires.
Broder can make even a cranky secular-Jewish queer reader like me, who typically chafes at magical realism and wet-blankets flights of fancy, eagerly suspend disbelief. Broder has a rare ability to ground her fantasy in reality without undermining her her imaginative vision, making it feel personal and raw and relatable. In another writer’s hands, the two women and their relationship might have presented as little more than a literary device to lead us to Rachel’s awakening, and that certainly could have been effective. But Broder’s goes deeper than allegory—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, whether or not they seem recognizable to us. It adds to the profound pleasure of following what could have been a too-familiar trajectory of a lost soul seeking meaning and finding love—because, as she initially grudgingly allows herself to capitulate to her appetites, she isn’t just learning how to love others, in her own way and on her own terms, but to love herself.
...hilarious, lush and sorrowful ... Her occasional stand-up routine in Silverlake aside, Rachel is genuinely funny: acerbic, self-deprecating, perceptive ... Broder develops Rachel's voice well beyond the arch mockery of the smarter-than-thou ... One of the novel's less interesting features is the figure Rachel creates out of clay during a session with her therapist ... Though these sections are just as well written and quippy as the rest, they seem like an effort to tie together that which is already beautifully bound: Rachel's hunger, for food and affection, and Miriam's offering ... Broder chooses the perfect structure for Rachel's story: the short, tart, candid chapters are like snacks, and the reader cannot help but reach for another until it is gone.