I could not put down Marya Hornbacher’s memoir. Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia was a book that was difficult to put down and difficult to tear my eyes from. Marya’s (pronounced Mar-Ya, not like Maria) words burned my eyes and made it hard to go to work. At times, ironically, the memoir was even more difficult to read. However, I finished the book in record time, believing that it was an important book to read and, potentially, a very dangerous book to read, especially for those that are in recovery from or are currently suffering with an eating disorder.
Marya Hornbacher has suffered from an eating disorder since the age of nine. It began with bulimia – the addictive feeling that she had of binging and purging alternatively – and moved to anorexia by the time Marya reached the age of 15. Marya’s voice throughout the narrative is astounding – her prose immediately draws you in and she spares no expense in detailing the painful feelings of worthlessness and the pressures put on her that resulted in her feeling that she could never be too thin, even when she was admitted by Emergency Room physicians and given a week to live. No expense was spared, from the descriptions that Marya provides about the effects that starvation, binging and purging had on her body, to the reactions that family, friends and treatment providers had when they interacted with her. Ms. Hornbacher was also able to deftly weave expert opinions, research studies that have been conducted on eating disorders and statistics into her memoir in such a manner so as not to disrupt the fluidity of the narrative. Her writing and journalistic abilities are some of the best that I have ever seen in someone that is her age (she was born in 1974 – you do the math).
While I enjoyed this book immensely, one should proceed with caution. Do not pick up this book and expect a happy, neat, tidy ending because you will not get one. People that have suffered from eating disorders often spend their entire lives living in recovery from them and I think that this is reflected adequately in Ms. Hornbacher’s memoir. The level of detail that Ms. Hornbacher goes into with regards to her illness and her proficiency at hiding it is astounding. However, I must warn the potential reader that the level of illness, while very impressive, may lead the person that is suffering from an eating disorder, has suffered from one in the past and is in recovery, or is predisposed to disordered eating, to be triggered into unhealthy behaviors.
This book, while very raw, was one of the best that I have seen with respect to first hand accounts of people that suffer from disordered eating. It was educational for me and I hope that it will be for you as well.