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Book Review   |    
Eve's Apple
Helen C. Bergman, M.S.W.
Psychiatric Services 1998; doi:
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by Jonathan Rosen; New York City, Random House, 1997, 309 pages, $24

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This unusual piece of fiction is a narrative of one young man's experience of living with a woman with anorexia and his attempts to understand the illness and help the woman he loves.

Joseph, the narrator, is a sweet, tender, and, I thought, somewhat neurotic young man who is consumed with knowing everything about who Ruth, his lover, is, including understanding and perhaps conquering her psychological problem. He is concerned about her but also fascinated by the illness and its root causes. It is almost as if he believes he will cure her by knowing all there is to know about her, her relationship with food, and the facts about this affliction.

To this end, Joseph delves into her private journal, seeks the help of a wise older therapist who is Ruth's mother's lover, and becomes the consummate graduate student, checking every possible book in the public library seeking answers. All this he does without Ruth's knowledge and with the rationalization that it is only his love for her that drives his actions. His need for mastery or control over his subject matter parallels her need to control food. In his quest for knowledge about and mastery over Ruth, he stumbles into his own psychological past.

The book is compassionately written and holds the reader's attention and curiosity about where it will all lead. However, several character explorations are dangled before the reader and set aside. Joseph's sister's suicide may be part of his motivation to control the devastation of mental illness, but the reader is left without any new insights about Joseph and his intentions. His relationship with the older therapist has many possibilities but does not mature. The narrator flirts with the reasons for Ruth's illness—a narcissistic and seductive mother, a remote and uncaring wealthy father, and obviously a poor sense of self-esteem that traces back to early adolescence. By the end of Eve's Apple, when Ruth seeks professional help with Joseph's assistance, you are sorry to finish the chapter; the second part of the story and love affair seems to be out of reach.

Jonathan Rosen writes gracefully and with true compassion. Both of the main characters are endearing in their respective struggles. Although the book starts slowly, the author draws the reader into the world of anorexia until the food disorder itself seems like the protagonist, eating away at the relationship between the two lovers. Most mental health professionals who enjoy well-written fiction as food for thought will find this course satisfying.

Ms. Bergman is codirector of Community Connections in Washington, D.C.

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