If You’re Going to Read One Book In February, Make It This One

updated Jun 10, 2021
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An antidote to the moody February blues is a new book, something to take your mind off of endless gray, icy days and gives your brain a much-needed distraction. Melissa Broder’s newest novel, “Milk Fed,” is the literary nourishment you may have been looking for. 

“Milk Fed” follows Rachel, a young Jewish woman in her mid-twenties who suffers from a toxic relationship with her mother as well as an eating disorder (trigger warning). She lives in Los Angeles and works at a talent management company by day, then performs comedy once a week by night. By setting strict rules and depriving herself, Rachel maintains the illusion that she has full control over life, even though the opposite couldn’t be more true. 

After her therapist suggests a detox from her mother for ninety days, Rachel hesitantly agrees; she knows she needs to set better boundaries with her mom, but at the same time, she feels like she can’t escape the guilt that’s consuming her (#JewishGuilt). Shortly after cutting her mother from her life, Rachel meets Miriam, an Orthodox Jewish woman who works at the yogurt shop Rachel frequents on her lunch breaks. She slowly, and then all at once, becomes spellbound by Miriam, a person with a bigger body who isn’t afraid to take up space and indulge in rich, sweet foods. 

As Rachel grows closer to Miriam, she allows herself to heal. Through frozen yogurt sundaes, challah, love, sex, and self-acceptance, Rachel is finally able to explore her needs and wants without the judgement she’s felt all her life. But can the same be said about Miriam? As Rachel goes head to head with past traumas and learns how to embrace her true self, she realizes that not everyone is given the same safe space to do so (on their own terms).

“Milk Fed” is brutally funny, poetic, and at times, totally bizarre — you can only expect that from Broder, whose writing is the perfect blend of confessional fiction and magical realism. She writes with the kind of unfiltered honesty that lives deep inside of us, and she forces us to reckon with a messy, complicated woman and her journey to accept that only she can give herself the unconditional love she craves. 

Here are four other great reads this month:

Love Is an Ex-Country by Randa Jarrar

If you’re a fan of memoirs, you need to add “Love Is an Ex-Country” to your list. Author Randa Jarrar documents her road trip from California to her parents’ house in Connecticut, a cross-country journey that allows Jarrar the time and perspective to really grapple with her lived experiences.

In “Love Is an Ex-Country” Jarrar writes about surviving assault when she was a child, and then later a wife, what it was like being doxxed after she tweeted about Barbara Bush, and her real-time encounters with racism. Jarrar is a queer Muslim Arab-American who, above all, still tries to find happiness in a volatile country that is often times cruel to those it deems do not belong.

“The Kindest Lie” by Nancy Johnson

Set in 2008, shortly before Barack Obama’s inauguration, “The Kindest Lie” follows Ruth Tuttle, a Black engineer married to a man who’s excited to start a family in the city of Chicago. But Ruth is finding it hard to share that excitement; she still hadn’t unpacked nor dealt with the trauma she faced when she got pregnant earlier in life and had to leave the baby — and the life she would have led — behind. Ruth finds herself going back home to Indiana for clarity, answers, and hopefully, closure. But when she arrives, she learns that her hometown has been hit hard by the stock market crash. In its wake, unemployment has hit the community hard, and Ruth is horrified to come face to face with racial injustice that has plagued the place she grew up.  This book powerfully and vividly tackles class, race, and motherhood in a way that is timely and needed. 

No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood

From the writer and poet who brought you the delightful memoir “Priestdaddy” comes a new kind of book that defies all genres and is gloriously weird to the bone. “No One Is Talking About This” follows a newly quasi-famous woman known for her social media presence. However, she is overwhelmed by the recognition and isn’t sure how to engage with this new reality, calling it “the portal.” Who is she anymore? What’s real? Is her voice really her own? Patricia Lockwood captures what it means to struggle with your identity and place in the world in a way that’s tender, surreal, and infinitely captivating. 

Fake Accounts by Lauren Oyler

Although we are now living in a post-Trump world, we can still expect the literary aftershocks of such a tumultuous, frightening time in history. “Fake Accounts” was written well before Joe Biden’s inauguration — but its release couldn’t feel any more timely. The novel follows a woman living in 2016: Trump has just been elected President, and she’s come to find out that social media is much more sinister than she ever thought. To her horror, the woman finds out that her boyfriend is a conspiracy theorist who hides behind the screen as he perpetuates lies and hatred (although she’s not totally surprised — there was something really strange about him). The unnamed narrator ends her relationship, and her life unravels. We follow her from New York to Berlin as she tries, desperately, to reinvent herself and learn to trust again.