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Book Club Kits: Milk Fed

Alamance County Public Libraries offer Book Club Kits for check out to area book clubs. Each kit contains 10 copies of a book and a reading guide.

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Book Summary

Named a Best Book of the Year by Entertainment Weekly, Vogue, Time, Esquire, BookPage, and more

This darkly hilarious and “delicious new novel that ravishes with sex and food” (The Boston Globe) from the acclaimed author of The Pisces and So Sad Today is a “precise blend of desire, discomfort, spirituality, and existential ache” (BuzzFeed).

Rachel is twenty-four, a lapsed Jew who has made calorie restriction her religion. By day, she maintains an illusion of existential control, through 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.

Rachel soon 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.

“A ruthless, laugh-out-loud examination of life under the tyranny of diet culture” (Glamour) Broder tells a tale of appetites: physical hunger, sexual desire, spiritual longing, and the ways that we compartmentalize these so often interdependent instincts. Milk Fed is “riotously funny and perfectly profane” (Refinery 29) from “a wild, wicked mind” (Los Angeles Times). -Publisher

Discussion Questions

  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?

About the Author

Melissa Broder is the author of the novels MILK FED (Feb 2, 2021) and THE PISCES, the essay collection SO SAD TODAY, and five poetry collections, including SUPERDOOM: Selected Poems (Summer 2021) and LAST SEXT.

Broder has written for The New York Times,, VICE, Vogue Italia, and New York Magazine‘s The Cut.

Poems appear in POETRY, The Iowa Review, Guernica, Fence,  et al. She is the winner of a Pushcart Prize for poetry.

Broder received her BA from Tufts University and her MFA from City College of New York. She lives in Los Angeles.