The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 19 Mar 2019

Member Reviews

Secrets and shame lie at the heart of this story. A mother dies young, the father can't cope and the oldest sibling becomes the parent to the rest. The father, a traveling minister, is never home and doesn't know what's happening while he's gone. What's happening is things fall apart  Children don't know how to parent children. It may take awhile, but it all comes out in the end. A touching, well told story that will have you reading until late at night. Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review this book.  #TheCareAndFeedingOfRavenouslyHungryGirls #NetGalley
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The cover of this book might be stunningly eye-catching and vivid, and the story within lives up to the promise of the cover. The family at the heart of this story has dealt with their share of drama and issues throughout the years, but as the story opens they are dealing with their most public struggle to date- the sentencing of oldest sister Althea and her husband Procter for crimes that have caused deep hurt within their community. The story is told from three perspectives (plus letters from Procter to Althea)- oldest sister Althea, who married young to get away from the challenges and responsibilities thrown on her from her father; middle sister Viola, who stays away from home and who is reacting to the current situation by slipping back into dangerous habits, and youngest sister Lillian who has hid some of the trauma she experienced from her sisters, and is now responsible for Althea's daughters. Althea's fraught relationship with her daughter, Kim, is one of the most heartbreaking parts to read- it's had major consequences, and it feels as though it's difficult for Althea to see what she's done wrong in this relationship, or how to fix it. Every member of a family experiences their childhood differently, and we remember things differently, and sometimes just where you fall in the birth order, and what your family is experiencing at different times means very different things for each member, and this is so clear in this story- just being born into the same family doesn't guarantee the same experience, or even that you can comprehend each other's stories.
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Ugh I hate writing super negative reviews but I just really didn’t like this one you guys. I’m not going to spend a bunch of time bashing this just because it didn’t work for me, seriously I just scrolled the goodreads reviews for this and a lot of my friends like this, so clearly I’m in the minority on this one.

Let me point out that my reasons for not enjoying this one have absolutely nothing to do with the authors writing, in fact she’s a great writer. What didn’t work for me was the story itself and my lack of a connection with any of the characters. This follows one family after one sister gets sent to prison and the two other sisters are left to pick up the pieces of her life, mainly in the care of her teenaged twin daughters. The problem for me was that I just didn’t care about these people, I wasn’t invested in their lives at all so then I was just bored. I pushed through and really probably should’ve just gave up, because it was a pretty miserable experience for me in the end. I kept waiting for something to happen and it never did, it just ended. Overall, I’m just not the right reader for this one unfortunately.
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I'd been hearing great things about Anissa Gray's début novel The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls for almost a year before I finally picked it up. It was one of those books I really wanted to read, but at the same time, I hated the thought of not having it to look forward to. My brain does strange things sometimes, I know. Anyway, I finally gave in and started reading, and I'm very glad I did.

The women of the Butler family are no strangers to bad luck. Each of them has gone through more than their fair share of trials and tribulations, but most people would say they've all managed to come out on top. But when oldest sister Althea and her husband Proctor are arrested one day for embezzling money they had promised to donate to charity, Lillian and Viola must come together to care for their sister’s teenaged daughters while Althea and Proctor are in jail. No one is particularly happy with this arrangement, but both Viola and Lillian know it's their duty to care for their struggling nieces in their time of trouble.

Althea was always the force that held the family together. When their mother walked out on the girls and their father, Althea stepped up and helped raise the younger children, even though she was not much more than a child herself. Her strong will and even stronger opinions caused her sisters to respect and fear her in equal measure. No one ever expected her to be hauled off to jail in disgrace, and to make matters worse, she's now refusing to see or speak to her own daughters, and she has very little to say about the crimes she and Proctor have been accused of.

Lillian is the youngest of the Butler sisters, and the one most obviously scarred by their mother's abandonment and their father's cruelty. All her life, she has longed for love and approval, but Althea seems to find fault with almost everything she does. Now that she's in charge of caring for Althea's children, Lillian wonders if she'll finally be able to measure up to her sister's extremely high standards.

Viola, the middle sister, left town as soon as she graduated from high school. She doesn't necessarily dislike her family, but neither does she relish the thought of living near them. When Althea and Proctor are arrested and Lillian is overwhelmed almost to the point of collapse, Viola is forced to return home and face both the ghosts of her past and the mysteries of an uncertain future.

This is the story of a family in crisis, of sisters, mothers, and daughters struggling to survive in a world that is often cruel and unfeeling. It's the kind of book that is sure to tug at the heartstrings of its readers, but also leave them with a ton to think about. Ms. Gray doesn't shy away from the darker side of family life. Instead, she faces a number of unpleasant situations head on, and I appreciated the sensitivity she shows when discussing things like child abuse and neglect.

If you're looking for a book filled with likable characters, this one isn't for you. It's certainly not that these characters are inherently bad, but a few of them do take a bit of getting used to. Althea, in particular, was hard for me to warm up to. She comes off as so very self-righteous, ready to point the finger at anyone who transgresses even the slightest bit. She wants the people around her to think she's above reproach, but it's obvious to the reader pretty early on that she's anything but a paragon of virtue. Ms. Gray does a great job creating characters who dwell in that gray area inhabited by many of the people in our real lives, and whereas I didn't always love everything about Althea and her family, I felt like I at the very least understood them.

My one quibble with this book has to do with the crime Althea and Proctor have been accused of committing. I never felt like I knew what they had actually done and what they were accused of doing. Maybe those things were one and the same, but it just wasn't clear. We are given a few glimpses into Althea's thoughts as she sits in jail, but they don't provide much in the way of clear-cut information. Certain things are revealed near the end of the book, but I was still left with questions.

The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls is not a perfect book, but it's still worth your time and attention. The author excels at painting vivid pictures with her words, and the story she's telling is both timely and important.

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Like this novel’s beautiful cover art, sorrow has many faces. The Butler sisters lost their mother too early and never recovered. The eldest sister, Althea, tried her best to take care for her siblings, but she didn’t know how. She tried to take care for her daughters, but she didn’t know how. Mistakes were made. Viola, the brilliant middle daughter, longs for relief from inner turmoil, but won’t accept help. Lillian, the youngest daughter, was too terrified to speak her truth until Althea’s mistakes land her in jail and left Lillian to care for her nieces.  Although the Butler siblings’ father and mother were not part of the action of the story, they both loom large in their adult daughters’ psyches and play an important part in their healing. 

This novel was incredibly dark at times as we watch the three sisters battle their demons alone. I found myself willing the characters to just talk to each other so they could support each other. In less skillful hands this character driven novel would have been difficult to read, but Anissa Gray made me care for the Butler sisters so much, I couldn’t look away. The prose is lovely and Gray doesn’t pull many punches. It has been several weeks since I finished this book and I am still thinking about the characters. 

Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a review copy of the novel.
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Many thanks to NetGalley, Berkley, and Anissa Gray for the opportunity to read this wonderful debut novel.

We learn from the start that Althea and her husband, Proctor, are in jail for embezzlement from their business and the townspeople.  But the real story begins both before and after the trial.  Before - Althea is the oldest of 4 siblings, raised by a mostly-absent, mean father after their mother died.  Althea had to step in to raise her siblings and carried much resentment towards her father.  Lillian, the baby, ends up back living with the dad when he is somewhat of a changed man and therefore has a different relationship with Lillian.  The other two siblings, Viola and Joe, have their own struggles and demons.  After the trial, all of Althea's siblings and her two twin daughters are left to face the wrath of the townspeople as well as trying to cope with their new situation of caring for the girls while the parents are in jail.

This is definitely a book about all the things that make us human - family, loyalty, forgiveness, and hopefully moving towards healing and a new normal.  Beautiful debut!
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Fantastic book! The characters spoke to me the entire time- echoing the struggle to discover your true self.
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I finished this book three days ago and I am still thinking about it. The storytelling is somewhat fragmented, but that matches how the characters' lives are fragmented. In the beginning there were a number of characters to keep straight; this is something I struggle with, so I made a list. I can't decide if this book tries to tell too many stories or if the gravity of all the situations bring a necessary weight to the family. In any case, I liked reading about the various plights of these grown sisters and their loved ones.
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Reading The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls was an insight into how a dysfunctional childhood affected the Butler family over the course of their lives. This book starts off towards the end of the trial for Althea, the oldest Butler girl, and it weaves a tale between the memories and circumstances of the Butler women. There is much to unpack in this story and as the layers are peeled back I was able to see the heart of these women. That is what made The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls a page turner! I wanted to know these women, to understand them, I wanted them to find what it was that they needed for happiness and contentment.

The story is told in the present as well as through recollections of the past. There are multiple narratives from the Butler sisters. Althea’s follows her time in jail, Lillian’s deals with her time with Althea’s children as they are in her care, and Viola’s deals with her life as it is falling apart. Proctor, Althea’s husband, also has a voice in this story but his point of view is told through letters to his wife. As each woman is trying to figure out how to deal with present day circumstances, Althea and Proctor’s situation being the center focus, they are also considering their past and how it could have factored into the catastrophe that they are all facing.

All the Butler women in this story were nicely fleshed out. They had depth and I felt that their personal struggles were real and realistically detailed. Part of this plot also deals with the daughters of Althea, Kim and Baby Vi, and how their parent’s situation affected them as well. I wish more care had been given to make me, as the reader, really hurt for them, to feel their pain and, for one of the girls, guilt and anger. Everything I know of the girls was because I was told but little was shown except through how the sisters felt about situations. I didn’t feel that much for the girls. They felt very one-dimensional to me and my “care” for them was because of empathy but not because I was invested in them as characters.

I had wanted more motivation behind what put Althea and her husband Proctor into jail. I was hoping for a twist of some kind or that the true motivation had been unselfish in nature and that Althea was acting the way she was towards her children and family because she was being strong for altruistic reasons. Instead, her motivation was quite common but it was interesting how issues from her childhood that were not dealt with played a part in her downfall as an adult. There is a lesson in that alone. Overall, The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls was a touching story that is memorable and a wonderful debut novel. I will be looking for more from this Author in the future!

This review is based on a complimentary book I received from NetGalley. It is an honest and voluntary review. The complimentary receipt of it in no way affected my review or rating.
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Oh, sisters. This relationship is fraught in the best of times, but add some challenges and the situation can implode. This is the story of a complicated family facing adversity, and Gray hits every note and finesses every layer beautifully.
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“Words can either feed you or eat you alive.” 

I wanted The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls for the title alone and was beyond shocked when I received an advanced copy back in October . . . . which I then promptly made sure to not read due to the blurbage that stated it was for fans of An American Marriage. Uhhhhhhhhhhh. With the release date quickly approaching I figured it was time to put on my big girl panties and let the chips fall where they may. 

I opted to bite the bullet when I got home from work last Thursday (a night that I usually have alone, but thanks to endless ice/rain/sleet/hail/thundersnow (yes, that’s a thing) I had the family with me). Luckily a snow day for Friday had already been called and the hubs had a very important Iowa Hawkeye basketball game to watch so it was pretty much like no one was there anyway. It was a good thing too because I read this book cover-to-cover in the course of that evening – becoming so wrapped up in the lives of the Butler family that I totally ignored my own.

The story here begins with Althea and her husband Proctor being sentenced to the federal penitentiary for food stamp and charity fraud. What unfolds is the history of three sisters and a brother who grew up in a family the firmly believes in the principal . . . . 

“The past is the past.”  

The reader discovers the Butlers are a group who should have had someone willing to have a "Celie moment" (y'all know what I'm talking about) with at least one family member if not several!

I will admit that there were some things I wanted to know moremoremoremoremore about – specifically Althea and Proctor's crimes. However, I fully understand that since those two characters were incarcerated it would have been more than a little far-fetched for them to share any additional details that had not been provided/alluded to. (Inquiring minds still want to know/are disappointed they don't, though - because NOSEY.) But really, at the end of the day? Family drama is my siren song - 4 Stars.

ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls by Anissa Gray 

Writing: 3.5/5  Plot: 4/5 Characters: 5/5

This book has all the makings of an Oprah book club selection — it’s a well-written, family oriented drama, full of people with  serious personal issues but who are striving to deal with them (and succeeding).  The triple narrative switches between the first-person viewpoints of the three Butler sisters: Althea (48), convicted of government fraud and in prison; Viola (40), recently separated from her partner and subject to long-term eating disorders; and Lillian (36), in the old family homestead struggling to take care of Althea’s teenaged twin daughters and her 88-year old ex-mother-in-law (who is one of my favorite characters).

Insightful character studies that elicit empathy in the reader without being overly dramatic (though gut-wrenching in places) — I was surprised that the author actually got me to understand and empathize with Althea, who after all had stolen charity money from people who could ill afford it.  The characters bring to life the impact and genesis of several issues:  IED — Intermittent Explosive Disorder, eating disorders, the stigma of jailed parents in a small community, and childhood abuse.  Sometimes painful to read, but generally uplifting in the way the characters draw together for healing and never give up on themselves or each other.
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Althea, Viola, Joe and Lillian were the Butler children.  The childhood was not the best as their mother died when they were young and their father was abusive but wasn’t around very much.  Althea was only 12 years old when she was left in charge of the family.  Their problems as children follow them into adulthood.  Althea is now middle age and is on trial, along with her husband Proctor, for food stamp fraud and taking money from their community members through their charitable works.  Althea and Proctor were highly regarded for all they did for the community so their fall from grace was difficult for them, their family and the entire community.  Their twin teenage daughters, Kim and Baby Vi, are living with Lillian, who has her hands full with them.  Viola is now a therapist but struggling with bulimia and is estranged from her wife.  And Joe – well, Joe has a lot to be regretful about.

This tale of a dysfunctional family and their demons and the effect of Althea and Proctor’s theft on the family and community failed to capture my heart.   I had absolutely no sympathy for Althea and Proctor and the mess they found themselves in.  While I did sympathize with the rest of the family, their plight seemed to be removed and I just read the book from a distance.  I just didn’t connect with the characters much at all.  I found some of the book repetitive and drawn out.  It wasn’t a terrible book and I kept reading to find out what happened.  There was one point towards the end of the book where I thought the book was finished but was surprised to see that it kept going.  I think it would have been a better ending a bit earlier on.  Maybe it was just me and from the reviews it does seem that I’m in the minority but I can’t give this book more than 3 stars nor can I recommend it.

This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.
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Such an honest portrayal of families rallying together while they are coming apart.  
Althea is the eldest sister, the one in jail, and she must rely on her younger sisters to take care of her girls, as her husband Proctor is also jailed.  How does this happen to such a respected family? Do they even know what really happened? 
A raw portrayal of a family in crisis, where dysfunction is normal.  But can a family come together and heal from the hurt and betrayal they have all suffered? 
Anissa Gray weaves a beautiful and emotional story that resonates for so many reasons.  What would you do for your family?
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This was middling for me. I think my mood might have to do with how I received this book. This was too intense emotionally. It's complicated and the stuff this family went through broke my heart. I really enjoyed Anissa Grey's writing and would be interested in reading more books by her.
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Anissa Gray brilliantly captures the true meaning of family. The darkness, the light, and what encompasses the bind as a family. 

I truly was left a mess after finishing this book and was completely wowed by Anissa's talent as a writer. A remarkable, powerful, and hauntingly emotional debut about confronting a past that is dark, broken, and fragile. 

The Butler's live in a world of dsyfunctionality to it's core. Athlea, Proctor, Viola, Baby Vi, and Kim are struggling to survive the tragedy brought upon their family. As a reader, you feel the power, resistance, love, pain, and angst for this family. My goodness.... was I so rooting for this family and at times had so much anxiety for them.

This is one debut novel that is not to be missed my friends! This is definitely going to be a novel that is brightly shown on my book shelf! 

Powerful, raw, beautiful, and inspiring!!!

5 stars!!!

Thank you to Berkley and Netgalley for the advanced arc in exchange for an honest review.

Publication date: 2/19/19
Published to Goodreads: 2/4/19
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The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls
Anissa Gray
Set in a small town in Michigan, restaurateur Althea receives a multi-year sentence for food stamp fraud and charity embezzlement. Her husband Proctor is also sentenced to jail. The family goes from one of the most respected in town to disgrace.
Her two sisters and her twins are all grappling with what has happened. The book takes you through how their crime causes problems for the entire family. Twins Teenage Kim and Baby Vi are living with Lillian and struggling with the fact that their parents have been jailed for fraud. The author uses a large cast of characters.The novel is narrated by Althea, Viola, and Lillian in alternating chapters. The family face struggles with how to cope.The author develops the story of a dysfunctional family and how they come together through all the trials and tribulations to find a way forward.
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I am always interested in a book featuring strong, self-sufficient females, and the Butler women certainly fit the mold!  The synopsis claims to be The Mothers meets An American Marriage, which hits the nail on the head! 

Althea, Viola and Lillian are no strangers to adversity. Their mother passed away when the girls were very young, leaving Althea, the oldest, to play the role of both mother and big sister to Viola, Lillian and their brother Joe. Their father, a traveling pastor, was rarely around to help, leaving the family reliant on Althea, charity and church donations.  

Fast forward to adulthood when Althea, the rock for so long, and her husband are on trial facing criminal charges due to questionable decisions regarding their restaurant business. The tides turn and now Althea must rely on her Viola and Lillian to step in and help with her twin teenage daughters.  The Butler sisters are forced to work out their deeply rooted issues and figure out how to move forward under the unfavorable circumstances.

This book was about relationships and family.  It is told from the perspectives of Althea, Viola and Lillian.  These women find strength from a time of struggle, and they help pick each other up when the others are down.  Anissa Gray did a great job of painting the picture of the Butler family, and I found myself lost in the pages.
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This one just didn't grab me. Although I love watching a story unfold before me there were just too many things that were left as mysteries- relationships, old resentments, the crimes at the heart of the novel- for quite a while in the book and for some reason I wanted more answers more quickly so I could understand the characters' motivations and interactions. It all felt disconnected to me.
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This book took awhile for my brain to wrap around the story.  As is so often the case these days, you are just given glimpses of a plot, told from multiple perspectives.  Althea and her husband, Proctor, have just been convicted of embezzlement from a charity they ran and are being sentenced to prison.  Her two sisters and her twins are all grappling with what has happened. The book takes you through how their crime causes problems for the entire family.  A ripple effect personified.  It also shows how the siblings’ childhood left scars on each of them and created the damaged adults they have become.  

What’s interesting is that there’s no question that Althea and Procter are guilty.  That said, they are still sympathetic characters.  

Gray fleshed out each of these characters. This book is primarily character, as opposed to action, driven.  There’s lots about guilt, forgiveness and healing.  

The writing is wonderful.  Devote the time and energy to become invested in this story and you will be rewarded.  

My thanks to netgalley and Berkeley for an advance copy of this book.
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