Brave, honest and ultimately uplifting, The Boy Who Loved Apples is a compelling and beautifully written account of life with an eating disorder, and a gritty, moving testament to a mother’s love.
When it became clear that Amanda Webster’s eleven-year-old son Riche was not just a little too skinny but dangerously ill, people were often surprised. Do boys get anorexia? they would ask. How did he get it?
That was the question Amanda asked herself, too. She had trained as a doctor; she knew that every disease has a cause. And if her son had an eating disorder, she wondered what the cause could possibly be but something she and her husband Kevin had done—or failed to do?
Quick to blame both Kevin and herself, worried about how her two other kids were coping, Amanda also found herself at odds with a medical establishment that barely understood Riche’s illness, far less how to treat it. And as she embarked on the long, agonising process of saving her son’s life she found herself battling not just Riche’s demons but her own.
Amanda Webster graduated from the University of Western Australia as a doctor, following in the footsteps of her father and grandfather. She left medicine to raise a family with her husband, Kevin. Amanda turned to writing after her son Riche’s illness and is currently an MFA candidate in the low residency program at City University of Hong Kong. Her work has appeared in several US literary journals.
What an amazing book. Amanda Webster was a doctor who gave up her career to run her household, look after her three children and her two parents. Her high-flying husband (Kevin) commuted almost 800km each week in order to spend weekends with his family. Based in Australia this books should be on everyone’s reading lists.
Tragedy strikes when Amanda and Kevin's oldest, Riche, suffers from anorexia and this is Amanda's heart wrenching journey from bringing him back from near death.
Riche was only 11 years old when diagnosed and Amanda dropped her life, and her responsibilities to look after him. He is very inspirational and I don't think I could have been as strong as her!!
I was left with a feeling of learning after reading this book as it was the first book on the subject of eating disorders that I've encountered that a) didn't romanticise the illness and the struggles associated with it, b) provided great insight into family-based rehabilitation rather than traditional hospitalisation, c) featured a boy as a protagonist (as anorexia is typically a female victim-based illness), and d) featured someone as young as 11 years old.
Easy to read prose and while I couldn’t relate to Amanda and Riche’s struggles, I was drawn into their lives and the ever-present illness that Riche (and his whole family/community) was fighting.
As the subtitle indicates, this is a woman's account of helping her son through the worst of his anorexia. I didn't realise until I started the book just how young he was—still a child, not yet a teenager. And it's fascinating for that: we're seeing anorexia through the eyes of an adult who has some idea what's going on in her son's head, but not a total idea; it's a slow and painful process for her to understand how best to treat her son and how to get through to him.
There were a few things that I strongly wished had been expanded. First, Webster is a doctor. She quit (paid) work to be a full-time parent, but so many little things raised questions for me—her distrust of the doctors treating her son, for example, or her comment that she dislikes hospitals (143). It felt like there were a lot more depth there that wasn't explored. Also notable that Webster's own weight was quite low for, apparently, quite some time, and it is with a distinctly grim set to the mouth that she takes steps to course-correct there. And...well, the marriage seems very very complex and not a relationship I really understand and there probably could have been just a bit more exploration there as well.
What's most interesting, though, is just this sense of seeing a child's anorexia through the eyes of an adult. Riche's experience was probably quite different than that of an adult dealing with anorexia—anorexia distorts logic, yes, but his basic understanding of how things worked was just different. More black and white. Less nuanced. I wish we'd seen whatever conversations Webster and her husband initially had with Riche about anorexia; we see her explaining it to the younger kids, and their initial reactions, but not how Riche responded when told that he had anorexia. (And, gosh. Those poor younger kids. I'm sure as hell not criticising Webster for doing what she had to do to care for Riche, but how difficult for the younger ones.) His eventual rapid progress is all the more striking for how slowly things had progressed until then, and it's frustrating as a reader (as, I am sure, it was as a parent) to think how differently things might have gone had better services been available.
I listened to a Richard Fidler conversations interview with Amanda Webster in 2013 and have wanted to read the book since, not knowing I would develop an eating disorder in 2015. Emotionally this was a difficult read at times. Richie and I had very different compulsions and driving thoughts, but a lot of our actions were the same - the lying, the tipping of the cup to gather drinks on the sides, the length of mealtimes, the breakdowns. It really showed how you lose all the things you love, your entire life to an ED. Webster's reflections on her sons anorexia are very well written, conveying her frustration and fury rooted in a love for her children. "The retrospectoscope, I'm beginning to understand, is an instrument to be handled with care. It concentrates memories in much the same way that a lens concentrates the suns rays; and they too have the power to burn."
A great read, I felt like I have stepped into their lives for a heartbreaking period of madness. I can not begin 6o understand hoe lonely this period must have felt for each individual family member. A true insight into what is a horrible disease.
Mooi verhaal met uitleg over anorexia, maar aan het einde voor het herstel wel heel snel beschreven. Ik weet uit eigen ervaring in de familie dat dit juist het moeilijkste gedeelte is (al is elke ervaring natuurlijk anders) dus stond daar wel even van te kijken
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Heartbreaking, yet inspirational memoir by a mother fighting to keep her 11 year old son alive as he is in the throes of Anorexia Nervosa & OCD. An incredibly committed & dedicated mother who survived too! I recommend this book.
This book was Published in 2014. This book is 304 pages long. . .
Amanda graduated from the University as a doctor, . . following in the footsteps of her father and grandfather. . . She left medicine to raise a family with her husband, Kevin. . .
Amanda was a doctor who gave up her career to run her household, looking after her three children and her two parents. . . Her high-flying husband travels almost 800km each week in order to spend weekends with his family. . .
this is Amanda's heart wrenching journey from bringing Riche back from near death. . .
Amanda starts to notice some odd behaviour patterns in her eldest son Riche, . . with some obsessive compulsive patterns forming, she also starts to have trouble with his eating and drinking, and notices his increase in walking for hours around their property, . . and increasing withdrawn from family and school. . . After a suggestion from a friend, she realises that he is becoming Anorexic, and starts looking for treatment. . .
Riche was only 11 years old when diagnosed with anorexia. Amanda dropped her life, and her responsibilities to look after him. . .
In the early nineties, without the availability of the internet, there are only a few options in Australia, . . and Amanda finds herself having to live with her son in Brisbane, to have access to expensive therapy and outpatient treatment. . .
Amanda is Quick to blame both Kevin and herself, worried about how her two other kids were coping, . . Amanda also found herself at odds with a medical business . . that barely understood Riche’s illness, far less how to treat it. . . And as she embarked on the long, agonising process of saving her son’s life . . she found herself battling not just Riche’s demons but her own. . .
I give this book 5/5 . .
I found this story very moving and eye opening its an amazing story of hope, love, determination and recovery. . . I feel that this book is well-written story. . . . I felt I was in the room and WAS the mother as she lived the experience. . Amanda and her family were so brave to share their story of a child with severe mental illness . . I wanted to reach into the book and give this poor woman a hug. . . The beautiful happy ending made me cry. . . Amanda did a fantastic job at capturing the raw emotions . .
It is Amandas voice that shines through in this story of her son and his years lost to Anorexia. I found myself staying up late to read and wanting to know what happens. . . Would've liked to know more about Andy and Louise at the end.
I stared at this one on my book pile for two weeks before I decided to pick it up, and I am glad I did. The author Amanda Webster is a mum of three in coastal Australia. With a husband who commutes during the week to a high paid job in Sydney, she also finds herself caring for her elderly parents, including her mother, who is left disabled after a brain aneurysm.
A retired doctor herself, she starts to notice some odd behaviour patterns in her eldest son Riche, with some obsessive compulsive patterns forming, she also starts to have trouble with his eating and drinking, and notices his increase in walking for hours around their property, and increasing withdrawn from family and school. After a suggestion from a friend, she realises that he is becoming Anorexic, and starts looking for treatment.
In the early nineties, without the availability of the internet, there are only a few options in Australia, and Amanda finds herself having to live with her son in Brisbane, to have access to expensive therapy and outpatient treatment.
It is Amandas voice that shines through in this story of her son and his years lost to Anorexia. I found myself staying up late to read and wanting to know what happens.
Surely, there could be nothing more harrowing than being the parent of a seriously ill child. What an eye opening book this is! Amanda and her family were so brave to share their story of a child with severe mental illness (anorexia). I guess it seems like a slightly morbid topic for a book, but I heard Amanda interviewed on the radio and she was just such an engaging interviewee, I had to read the book. I feel like I learned a lot. I remembered afresh how lucky I am that my boy is healthy. I wanted to reach into the book and give this poor woman a hug. The beautiful happy ending made me cry. A pretty intense subject, but a beautifully written book about a very worthwhile subject.
I learnt so much about anorexia but more importantly I so related to the mothers descriptions of trying to maintain normality in life when trying to deal with an out of the ordinary and ongoing traumatic situation. A baffling disorder. A beautifully written book I am glad I read. An amazing documentation of this families struggle and survival and triumph through often harrowing times. I am in awe. I love the first person narrative used strongly throughout most of the book as I felt often I was in the room and WAS the mother as she lived the experience. A brilliant book on a mothers lived perspective.
One thing I find really interesting about these accounts of anorexia is how they show how closely linked it seems to be with OCD - the uncontrollable thoughts and fears that lead to particular behaviours meant to control it. Although I didn't find that I particularly liked the author through most of the story, I certainly felt for what she was going through, and her struggle to find appropriate treatment. It seems that in the few years since this was published, the new treatment methods she eventually found success with have become more mainstream, which is a positive step.
This book really highlighted the extremes of anorexia. The idea of calorie transfer from seeing it on TV is something I hadn't heard of before. It is sad how much the disease can ruin not only the life of the sufferer but friends and family as well.
I strongly recommend this book to anyone who is undertaking research in the area of anorexia or knows someone who is suffering. It is very different to other books I have read.
Wow, what a brutally honest and emotionally exhausting read. I cried tears of sadness, desperation, happiness and gobbled this book up in 24 hours because I couldn't sleep until I knew the outcome of Riche and his family. Amanda Webster did a fantastic job at capturing the raw emotions- I would highly recommend anyone to read this.
I definitely recommend it to health professionals, as an informative and interesting insight. But just generally it was an enjoyable read. Well structured and the story flowed nicely. A pleasure. Would've liked to know more about Andy and Louise at the end but still.