Felman, the youngest of three sisters (Judy, Jan, Jyl), grew up in a Jewish household in Dayton, Ohio. This is Jyl’s story, and that of her sisters (one anorexic former shoplifter, one married lawyer), as prompted by the death of their mother, whose attention was all any of them ever wanted. Instead, she gave them food: brisket, cakes, candies, stews — although not forbidden shellfish, and so the eating of shrimp signals the book’s pivotal event, the author’s declaration of independence. But if the point of a personal history is some sort of understanding, Felman doesn’t seem to have reached it; at the end of the book she is just as alienated from her family as she was at the beginning, and the effect is to alienate the reader as well. C+

Cravings: A Sensual Memoir