Imagine this: You are a woman who once was an athlete and gloried
in painting. Now you're in constant pain. At times, you cannot
walk. Your lower body is numb and weak. You're unable to move your
bowels. Within your butt, you feel a constant twitching spasm.
Eating hurts. You can no longer paint. What a nightmare, right?
Now, picture this: doctor after doctor dismiss your symptoms or
refer you to psychiatrists. You even begin to half-believe everyone
else is right and you are crazy. At the very least, you suspect you
are to blame for your condition because of your long history of
This is the hell in which Jenny Lauren finds herself. Jenny --- so
stunning that she modeled as a child for her uncle Ralph Lauren's
fashion line --- began to obsess about her weight early. At age
ten, away at camp and missing her parents, she decides to starve
herself. She spends her teen years and beyond fixated on food and
her body size, binging, purging and compulsively exercising.
Although she is hospitalized for her problem and receives family
support, Jenny continues to struggle with her eating
Jenny Lauren's story lovingly describes her close-knit family,
while not exonerating them for possibly contributing to her
preoccupation with her body size. The Laurens seem beauty-conscious
to an extreme. Jenny ruefully recounts family compliments that not
only flattered her, but also pressured her to maintain an ideal
appearance beginning at an early age.
Some scenes chill the reader: fifteen-year-old Jenny binging on
cookies and then sneaking from the family apartment with a bag and
a roll of toilet paper to try to vomit in the stairwell, so her
parents won't overhear her purging attempts. Or this incident:
Jenny has gorged on food. She goes into a drugstore, buys ipecac
and takes it. She walks home, an elegant teen in immaculate rich
girl garb, vomiting every few steps.
In her twenties Jenny plunges into a year of unrelenting and
crippling physical agony. Doctors blame her symptoms on depression,
until finally a surgeon's x-rays reveal Jenny's small intestine has
slipped down and is resting between her rectum and vagina. Her
condition was most likely caused by damage to her digestive system
due to her eating disorder. Distressing as this bizarre diagnosis
is, Jenny is relieved to have a concrete physical explanation for
her year of hell. She undergoes surgery, expecting to return to
health but, sadly, that doesn't happen. Her surgery gives Jenny a
new set of physical problems. Her life becomes a quest to seek
relief and a normal life, while forgiving herself for the harm
she's inflicted on her body.
While I read HOMESICK, I felt I was Jenny Lauren --- a
terrifying, yet mesmerizing, experience. The same sensitivity that
may have contributed to transforming a healthy little girl into an
anorexic makes for a detail-laden, absorbing read. The author's
grim tale is leavened with unexpected flashes of humor and
Experience Jenny Lauren's riveting, tragic story and you may well
join me in thanking her for her unflinching honesty --- and wishing
her healing and peace.
Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon on January 22, 2011
Homesick: A Memoir of Family, Food, and Finding Hope