About midway through this smart, engaging, and utterly unique book, Audrey Mapes is accused of eating The Caboose, a restaurant in Kalamazoo. The judge of the case turns to Audrey and says, “‘If you won’t divulge how you did it, will you please tell the court why you did it?” This question — WHY Audrey ate Kalamazoo — is what this book is about, and the answer is heartbreaking, especially as it’s told by her ambivalent conspirator and sister, McKenna.
Audrey ate Kalamazoo because her father (who tells her, “‘I don’t hate you. I hate the idea of you'”) would rather spend time making Dr. Pepper shoes for his footless daughter than actually spending time with her. Audrey ate Kalamazoo because her “depressed mother…is warm to the skin but cold to the soul–a distant, distracted, touched-in-the-head mother.” Audrey ate Kalamazoo because her brother calls her a freak but obsesses on his own expanding body, and because her sister chews, regurgitates, and rechews her own food while feeding Audrey crayons and Playdoh and other nonfood. And because of Grandma Pencil. The author’s humor and the grandmother’s character are perfectly captured in this line by McKenna: “I’ve probably given you the impression that Grandma Pencil was some kind of ogre. If not, I’ve failed.”
This book dissects the contemporary American family and examines the connective tissue and (dys)function of each organ, with a focus on the broken heart. It’s hilarious, scary, uncomfortable, and all too accurate. Highly recommended.