Anissa Gray’s ‘Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls’ debut novel stuns

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Anissa Gray, a senior editor for CNN, offers a timeless and universal story told through the points of view of an African-American family in small-town Michigan. | Provided photo

Some stories of shattered life are told from the view of the proverbial rock, delving into the force that cracked the plane. Others reveal that the rock was just the final breaking point of a long-splintered piece of glass.

Anissa Gray’s debut novel “The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls” (Berkley, $26), examines those cracks in the familial glass, offering a gripping and sharp story on what it takes to hold a family together when everything is falling apart.

Gray, a senior editor for CNN who lives in Atlanta, offers a timeless and universal story told through the eyes of an African-American family in small-town Michigan.

The Butler sisters — Althea, Lillian and Viola — get the chance to give their own points of view, as the narrative switches among the sisters throughout the book.

Their family is thrown into chaos when quasi-matriarch and eldest sister Althea and her husband Proctor are arrested. The arrest and trial are the hard facts of life that break the family. But other hardships had meant their family life barely was held together to begin with.

When Althea tells her sister Viola that “daughters carry the hopes and promises of their mothers,” she invokes their past of having lost their mother when they were young, as well as the future of what her daughters will become. Althea contemplates what led her to this point as she sits in jail. She and Proctor exchange emotional letters that peel back the layers of their relationship and show how they will fight to survive.

The seemingly hardest hit of the family are Althea and Proctor’s teenage daughters Kim and Baby Vi (also named Viola). And their decisions affect the entire family.

Youngest sister Lillian must take care of the teenage girls even as she comes to terms with her own life’s truths and finds strength living in their recently revamped childhood home.

Middle sister Viola returns home from Chicago in the wake of the arrests, but she has her own demons to face — an eating disorder and a major argument with her wife Eva that’s pulled Viola even more deeply into herself.

As the sisters’ lives intertwine, each asks: “Who am I?” And who they are individually becomes just as important as who they are to each other.

The sisters’ words are emotionally resonant and substantial. They’ll linger even after you put the book down.

To read more from USA Today, click here.

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