The Butler family has had their share of trials—as sisters Althea, Viola, and Lillian can attest—but nothing prepared them for the literal trial that will upend their lives. Althea, the eldest sister and substitute matriarch, is a force to be reckoned with and her younger sisters have alternately appreciated and chafed at her strong will. They are as stunned as the rest of the small community when she and her husband Proctor are arrested, and in a heartbeat the family goes from one of the most respected in town to utter disgrace. As Althea awaits her fate, Lillian and Viola must come together in the house they grew up in to care for their sister’s teenage daughters.
Disclaimer: I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review
The intriguing title of Anissa Gray’s debut, The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls, caught my attention. At the start of the novel, community pillars Althea and her husband Proctor are in jail awaiting sentencing for defrauding the government and citizens of their town. After a major flood, Althea and Proctor ran charity fundraisers and then invested those funds in their restaurant.
Care and Feeding follows their sentencing, simultaneously peeling back the layers of the couple’s life, from their meeting as children to the present. The book also focuses on Althea’s relationships with her siblings — sisters Viola and Lilian, and their brother Joe — and daughters, Kim and ‘Baby Vi.’ Author Gray delves into each sister’s life by rotating POV’s between the three women.
The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls is divided into four sections. It begins with Taste of Home, then Drink It in, Care and Feeding, and finally, Water of Life. Food and water are recurring themes in this book, both literally and figuratively. Three of the women have disordered food relationships, and water has deep symbolic meaning for Althea.
Anissa Gray’s language is smooth, and her tone is distinct for all three sisters. She deftly manages Althea’s stubbornness, Viola’s impulsiveness, and Lilian’s timidity, each character’s personality shining effortlessly.
Besides her impressive characterization skills, Gray’s plot is intriguing. The Butler kids suffer a difficult childhood with an abusive preacher father who abandons them for long periods. Flashback scenes help readers understand the family, and create sufficient tension to propel the story. The book is rife with family drama, and with the skeletons in the Butler family wardrobe, nearly every chapter is revelatory.
The scenes with Althea and her prison mates are not as engaging as the rest of the book, and the resolution between Joe and Lilian felt rushed and implausible.Anissa Gray's debut novel is a powerful look at the ways only family can hurt us. The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls boasts a lineup of compelling women with serious, complex issues. Click To Tweet
Anissa Gray’s debut novel is a powerful look at the ways only family can hurt us. The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls boasts a lineup of compelling women with serious, complex issues. If you’re looking for a book with family, love, secrets, and betrayal, this engaging drama may be the one.