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The Girl Who Ate Kalamazoo

3.37  ·  Rating details ·  122 ratings  ·  46 reviews
In this charming novel, Darrin Doyle paints a captivating portrait of the all-American family—if the all-American family's youngest child ate an entire city in Michigan with a smile, that is. Doyle has a flare for writing about family dysfunction with a twist. With a unique blend of realism and fantasy, The Girl Who Ate Kalamazoo is the moving story of the hauntingly beaut ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published January 5th 2010 by St. Martin's Griffin
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3.37  · 
Rating details
 ·  122 ratings  ·  46 reviews

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Feb 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Yes, most of the characters are fairly unlikable throughout. Yes, it's odd and dark and probably a much sadder book than many people are looking for. It's also a wonderful read.

If you need comparisons, it's like John Irving grew up on SCTV and George Saunders instead of whatever he actually watched on TV and Dickens. Smart, funny, ridiculous, surprisingly touching, and fully aware that sometimes you need a character and sometimes you need a caricature. It's finding the balance between the two th
Jan 30, 2010 rated it really liked it
There are few books less metaphorically titled than this one... I had visions of a book about a young woman who devoured the social life and hip young scene of K'zoo, MI, but that is not this book. Instead, this really is as it seems, more or less: the story of Audrey Mapes, a young woman who eats up most of Kalamazoo, in the sense of ingesting it and, one imagines, pooping it out the other side, told mostly from the point-of-view, and through some version of the voice of her older sister McKenn ...more
Dec 01, 2009 rated it really liked it
Oh no, someone ate my hometown!?!

Wow, I can honestly say I have never read a book like this - and that's quite a remarkable for this speculative fiction lover!

The absolute best thing about the story is the complicated family relationships and the individual characters in the passively dysfunctional Mapes family. These people are seriously twisted, and deliciously flawed. Doyle deftly adds on layers upon layers of oddness, individual but related social problems for each character. They are effect
Superstition Review
The Girl Who Ate Kalamazoo exhibits the wit that is unique to Darrin Doyle. This story begins with a lovely introduction of the Mapes family, who normal enough at first. It is as the story continues that we’re given insight into the Mapes and how far their dysfunctionality goes. Darrin Doyle gives us a dark tale of a little girl who will ultimately grow up to be the demise of an entire city. Meanwhile, in the time that leads up to this milestone in Audrey’s life, Doyle’s humor and clever use of ...more
Dec 25, 2009 rated it liked it
*I won this book from a goodreads giveaway*

The Girl Who Ate Kalamazoo is an interesting tragicomedy of a middle-class family in Michigan who, in the absence of emotional depth, speaks through their relationships with food. How they interact it with it, interact with others around it (or don't), and how it effects their lives.

The center of the story is Aubrey, who is a very unique child. She is stunningly beautiful; the type of beauty that brings to mind a handcrafted artisan doll. She is born
Aug 05, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Jamie Mobley
Aug 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
This book is great! It has everything; dark humor, quiet sadness, faith: both occasionally questioned and doggedly unshakeable, the desire (and attempts, however pitiful) for love and human connection, the odd things we try to fill our emotional/spiritual holes with: literally and figuratively, simple zaniness, and above all, the power to make something preposterously unbelievable into a common everyday experience. It is destined to be a cult favorite. Doyle's first book, "Revenge of the Teacher ...more
Jan 28, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: misc, first-reads
I found very little about this "charming," "darkly comic tale" to be charming or comic. Doyle's novel is populated by characters I either actively disliked or about whom I felt completely ambivalent. I have a hard time enjoying a story that lacks a single likable or--at the very least--relatable character. There is no redemption; there are no answers. There is only bleakness and dysfunction. All of this plus an irritatingly jumbled chronology and a needless strain of anti-religious sentiment mad ...more
Dec 24, 2009 rated it did not like it
Shelves: firstreads
I had a lot of trouble getting into this book. The way the chapters were written threw me off as well, the way some things were described from the third person omniscient perspective was confusing because the person whose perspective it was supposed to be coming from seemed to change without warning. I would not say that it isn't worth giving a chance to because I think that if you get into it the writer has something very interesting and individual to say, and the characters are likable, it was ...more
Jun 27, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Had to read this because I live in the Zoo itself. The humor is pretty dark and out there, and that's why I loved it. Not too many books I read today are surprising, but this one kept surprising me. And I love the way the author depicts K-zoo, almost like this fairy tale place. The whole book sort of reminded me of a dark fairy tale. Maybe it's not for everyone, but this is well-written and one of a kind.
Jul 04, 2010 rated it it was amazing
All I can really say is that Chapter 31 of this book is the best thing I have read all year. That's not an exaggeration. This should be part of some daily reflection chicken soup for the soul the answer self help rolodex inspirational sayings dealy. Insightful and clever, poignant and somewhat sigh inducing sad but true...all executed with the precision of deer hunter's knife slicing open the ten point buck's skin to reveal the meaty, the bloody and the stinky truth underneath
Dec 25, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book! Completely original, darkly funny, and beautifully written, this kept me riveted through to the very end. While on one hand, it's a bizarre story of a beautiful footless girl devouring a city, it's more a complex story of a middle-American family falling apart. I loved the unique characters, the startling descriptions, and the quirky sense of humor. Great read!
Carly Movius
Jan 16, 2010 rated it it was ok
The story concept was good, yet I thought the prose was so bad. The characters are great in the story, which kept reading. Th author can sure illustrate the crunching sounds of glass windows, metal, and wood. Yuck! Yes it was dark humor and at times was engrossing, but still I wanted more from his writing.
Jan 30, 2010 rated it did not like it
I cannot do it, I cannot do it, I cannot do it!!! I've tried, but I cannot read this book. I'm stopping on page 91, chapter 28. The review's are wrong, thus far, it's too terrible of a story. I cannot read another word. I would give it less than one star if allowed!
Melanie Page
Jan 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I really liked the way that the characters changed based on the circumstances, especially since the story takes place over years. Just when I think I like and understand a character, he/she goes on to scare or anger me. Whew!
Dec 06, 2009 rated it really liked it
Won this on first reads.

Every family has its own funtionality/disfunctionality. This family definately has both of those. Wow, this is quite a family and consequently quite a young woman.
Jun 09, 2010 rated it it was ok
This novel was not as funny as I had hoped. While I enjoyed the Kalamazoo references I struggled to understand the analogy the author was hoping to make with the siblings eating disorders.
Feb 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
What gives? Does The Girl Who Ate Kalamazoo really contain more literary merit than, say, Anne of the Island or The Ballad of the White Horse, to each of which I doled out a scant three stars? In one sense, no, and my high rating is simply an expression of the fact that -- quite often in the past month -- I decided I actually preferred to inhabit an alternate universe in which the city of Kalamazoo, Michigan, disappeared during a couple of years in the late '90s into the voracious mouth of an at ...more
Apr 28, 2019 rated it liked it
Not really sure how I feel about this one.? It was fun to read a story that takes place in my hometown, but I feel like there are themes and metaphors (other than the siblings' various eating disorders) that I'm just not getting; They are going over my head. Or are they? The whole reading experience was strange and a bit uncomfortable. Maybe a more intelligent person can explain? Another review says, "It's not a nice story and nothing really good happens to anyone." And that pretty much sums it ...more
Dana Tipken
Apr 08, 2018 rated it liked it
Strangely written, but if you can hang on to the end of the book, you will see that the author was quite creative in portraying a family that didn't know how to love as a family should. The lack of love within the family unit disintegrated as a whole. It was interesting to envision the places and landmarks of Kalamazoo that are mentioned throughout the book.
Katherine D. Branson
May 16, 2019 rated it it was ok
Not my cup of tea
Dec 08, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
I won this book as a First Reads giveaway, and was really looking forward to getting it in the mail. I was lured in by the description of the book:
In this charming novel, Darrin Doyle paints a captivating portrait of the all-American family—if the all-American family’s youngest child ate an entire city in Michigan with a smile, that is. Doyle has a flare for writing about family dysfunction with a twist. With a unique blend of realism and fantasy, The Girl Who Ate Kalamazoo is the moving story
Dec 06, 2009 rated it it was ok
The Girl Who Ate Kalamazoo is well-written tale of a dysfunctional family of five, plus one grandma.

Audrey Mapes was born with a disability, and it wasn’t the fact she didn't have feet. What she did have was an insatiable appetite for… everything. So how do you satisfy a hunger that never is sated? Feed them pens and Play Dough of course, and that is just the start.

But is Audrey’s eating problem the biggest secrete in the Mapes family? Maybe. That is until she eats herself out of the closet. N
Apr 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
A surprising, charming story of a dysfunctional family that tries in unconventional ways to ease the pain and isolation that the lack of love and support forces. From Grandmother Annabelle who nearly starved in a WWII internment camp, and now cannot be more than a foot away from food, to the mad inventor Dad, to the severely depressed alcoholic mother, all are too self involved to heal the wounded, neglected children. As Audrey Mapes takes her revenge by eating an entire city, building by buildi ...more
Aug 13, 2011 rated it liked it
I don't know what to say about this book. It was odd. And dark. And I didn't like any of the characters. But the writing was good and somehow touching and sad and funny. Did I mention odd? It speaks to families and religion and love and the lack of all three in some households. And what happens to children who grow up in families where they must raise themselves; children who are so unfulfilled they can never be full. It's been said it takes a village to raise a child. In this story it takes a c ...more
Linda Robinson
Jan 24, 2011 rated it liked it
It's too easy to call a book substituting gastronomic excesses for a total lack of emotional sustenance distasteful, but there it is. The metaphor is overbaked. The author chef devoured the theory that if X amount of ingredients is good, then even more is better. I can't stomach any of these characters; even those mildly empathetic are several days past fresh. Scatological humor combined with the unappetizing spice of a girl born physically challenged. Doyle has writing skills undoubtedly, I jus ...more
Feb 25, 2010 rated it it was ok
Quirky. Weird. Pretentious. Condescending. Confusing. What I liked was the way the author dealt with how Kalamazoo handled being eaten. That part started out pretty amusing, but overall I sensed that the mixture of the mundane and the bizarre muddied a very serious subject - family dysfunction. I think there's a powerful idea here about how a family's failure to connect with one another can have some ugly physical side effects, but this went way beyond that with the creation of a character who c ...more
Adra Cole Benjamin
Feb 08, 2010 rated it liked it
3 stars for the well woven sentences. I thought that was the highlight of this read -- and the redeeming quality. The characters, on the other hand, along with the actual story was less than stellar. Many times I thought of abandoning the book, but there was a sick attraction to what was going on, and I read on to see how it ended. The ending left me with a bad taste in my mouth (pun intended). But I would recommend this book to modern-day writers and readers who appreciate one-of-a-kind sentenc ...more
Feb 23, 2010 rated it really liked it
A meditation on family dysfunction: the failed-inventor factory-working father, the maternity-despising mother, dueling twins, a young footless (yes, footless) girl with an appetite for black crayons and and peeling paint, a death-march-surviving grandmother who believes in Catholic education and constant snacking.

The playful and quirky writing reminds me of Polly Horvath (The Canning Season). Audrey Mapes suffers from pica, an eating disorder where non-food substances are consumed. I loved it f
Feb 08, 2010 rated it liked it
I was expecting something different but I was pleasantly surprised by the turn the book took. It is written with whit and quirkiness, it's highly original and the characters do grow on you despite their strange and unexplained behaviors. My only regret was the constant digressions made by the author, 1 really good step forward, and 2 steps backwards with maybe-not-really-useful details.
All in all, I'd recommend this book for its originality and characters who will stay with you for a while.
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Darrin Doyle is the author of the novels The Girl Who Ate Kalamazoo (St. Martin’s Press) and Revenge of the Teacher’s Pet: A Love Story (LSU Press) and the short story collection The Dark Will End the Dark (Tortoise Books). His fiction has appeared in many literary magazines, most recently BULL, Redivider, Pure Coincidence, Blackbird, and Newfound Journal. He lives in Mount Pleasant, Michigan and ...more