Tzipora's Reviews > The Man Who Couldn't Eat

The Man Who Couldn't Eat by Jon Reiner
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's review
Aug 14, 2011

it was ok
bookshelves: biography-and-memoir, library-books

I'm very torn on how to rate this book. And also torn on how to review it.

In general, memoirs of health issues probably only really appeal to a fairly small of group of people. I do not have Crohn's disease like the author but I do have a very severe digestive system disorder. And like the author I am dependent on Total Parenteral Nutrition (TPN), a form of nutrition that bypasses the digestive tract entirely. You get all your nutritional needs through your veins. And like the author I have NPO (nothing by mouth) for extended periods of time although unlike the author there is no expected recovery for me so maybe that makes my outlook different.

I LOVED the beginning of this book when Jon Reiner discusses his feelings towards being on TPN. For that reason alone I wanted to recommend it to my friends and family. I could relate so much. However, as the book went on I had more and more trouble relating and am not sure I'd recommend it to anyone. The bulk of this book, as other have mentioned, is a lot of whining. At one point the author even addresses the fact that others have pointed out that TPN saved his life (as it has mine). TPN is definitely a life saver for all who need it but Mr. Reiner is too busy complaining. Even when he addresses the lifesaving aspect he seems to state it's not enough. He only spends 3 months on TPN and NPO and never in all that time does he ever come to accept the TPN or his illness. And this bothered me immensely. The author's Crohn's goes more or less into remission by the time the books ends so on some level he never really has to accept it. This is unfortunate and the book could've been so much better and of much more use to so many people if it had been a story of learning to cope with a severe and chronic illness. Instead it's a whining lament.

If you're going to write a memoir, you need to be a likeable person and as the novel progresses, the author becomes more and more unlikeable with his his ranting and whining. Yes, it SUCKS to be NPO. And TPN can be a total pain. And this kind of situation is rare but most people I have ever spoken to in a similar situation have dealt with it better and honestly have far more inspiring stories. Jon Reiner seems to think he's the only one with these kinds of issues and chances are you've never met someone on TPN because it's rare but not THAT rare. And the last several chapters where he discusses a macrobiotic diet is very disjointed and the whole tone of the book changes. I have no clue what those chapters even have to do with the rest of the book. And the last chapter wraps things up way too well, like a fairy tale. It leaves a bipolar taste in your mouth, so to speak.

I'd like to rate it higher because it brings awareness to Total Parenteral Nutrition and is perhaps the only memoir of it's kind but I can't bring myself to recommend this to anyone.

So admittedly I have personal issues with this book and I realize this is a strange sort of review but if you take anything away from my review, it is this- This book SHOULD HAVE been extraordinarily relevant to me because I am in a similar situation but even I did not like it. That says a lot. And while I could give you more of a plot synopsis, I want to leave it at this. I was the perfect target audience for this memoir (and in general a big fan of memoirs) but this book was a huge disappointment!
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Reading Progress

August 14, 2011 – Shelved
November 16, 2011 – Started Reading
November 16, 2011 –
page 35
11.15% "As a woman who can't eat for similar reasons, this book is painful to me... And so far very relatable."
November 17, 2011 –
page 66
November 19, 2011 –
page 99
November 26, 2011 –
page 163
November 27, 2011 –
page 244
November 27, 2011 – Shelved as: library-books
November 27, 2011 – Shelved as: biography-and-memoir
December 15, 2011 – Finished Reading

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