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All booksLiterary fictionEat Only When You're Hungry
Eat Only When You're Hungry by Lindsay Hunter
Literary fiction

Eat Only When You're Hungry

by Lindsay Hunter

Quick take

Spoiler alert: bad choices outweigh good ones in this novel.  And yet the hope is there.

Why I love it

Nina Sankovitch
Bestselling Author

What is it about the word "addict" that triggers so many contrasting emotions? Pity, fear, anger, disgust, sympathy. And what about empathy? After reading Eat Only When You’re Hungry, the empathy I felt outweighed every other feeling. I came away weeping, laughing, and nodding in recognition.

After all, aren’t we all addicted to something? Why do some of us maintain balance while others fall so hard for so little? Lindsay Hunter poses these questions through the characters of the oh-so-dysfunctional family of Greg, an obese father with one son, one ex-wife, one current wife, an elderly father, and a dead (but still dominating!) mother. Whether it is booze, love, drugs, control, sex, or food, everyone in this family craves something, and for Greg and his son GJ (Greg Junior), the cravings—for food or for drugs respectively—are overwhelming.

When GJ goes missing, Greg decides to take decisive action and track him down. What follows is a road trip that plumbs the miseries of the cycle of addiction, of failure and remorse and repeat, but does so in language so beautiful and with a portrait of family so real, I could not help but hope against hope for the best. Every character stands on his or her own, unique and vital but also undeniably screwed up, with varying degrees of trying to come clean or happily living in denial.

I’d like to stay in touch with this family—because I care about them, even as they infuriated me. Spoiler alert: bad choices outweigh good ones in this novel. And yet the hope is there, no matter how many dead ends Greg reaches. Which is kind of a definition of addiction: bad choices, veiled hope, dead ends.

The fact that Hunter made me laugh with her sharp observations of human nature and her sly asides about the human frame (she gets us, inside and out), just makes this book more of a keeper, a treasure of a novel about family, and about the heartbreak, banality, and ubiquity of addiction.

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Achingly funny and full of feeling, _Eat Only When You’re Hungry_ follows fifty-eight-year-old Greg as he searches for his son, GJ, an addict who has been missing for three weeks. Greg is bored, demoralized, obese, and as dubious of GJ’s desire to be found as he is of his own motivation to go looking. Almost on a whim, Greg embarks on a road trip to central Florida—a noble search for his son, or so he tells himself.

Greg takes us on a tour of highway and roadside, of Taco Bell, KFC, gas-station Slurpees, sticky strip-club floors, pooling sweat, candy wrappers and crumpled panes of cellophane and wrinkled plastic bags tumbling along the interstate. This is the America Greg knows, one he feels closer to than to his youthful idealism, closer even than to his younger second wife. As his journey continues, through drive-thru windows and into the living rooms of his alluring ex-wife and his distant, curmudgeonly father, Greg’s urgent search for GJ slowly recedes into the background, replaced with a painstaking, illuminating, and unavoidable look at Greg’s own mistakes—as a father, as a husband, and as a man.

Brimming with the same visceral regret and joy that leak from the fast food Greg inhales, _Eat Only When You’re Hungry_ is a wild and biting study of addiction, perseverance, and the insurmountable struggle to change. With America’s desolate underbelly serving as her guide, Lindsay Hunter elicits a singular type of sympathy for her characters, using them to challenge our preconceived notions about addiction and to explore the innumerable ways we fail ourselves.

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Member thoughts

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All (1171)
Love (136)
Like (582)
Dislike (453)
1262 ratings
  • 11% Love
  • 46% Like
  • 36% Dislike
  • Atwater, CA

    Very candid, real, sometimes uncomfortable look at addiction in all of its various forms...totally fell for Greg's warped sense of self and was totally in denial until the truth is exposed at the end.

  • Steilacoom, WA

    Beautiful writing of gut-wrenching events. This is a book that when you finish, you slowly close the book and stare out into the nothingness of your existential thoughts. Eager to read Ugly Girls next

  • Chico, CA

    Feels weird to say I loved such a sad book about addiction, denial, and the cycle of abuse...but I did. The reader goes on an emotional road trip with Greg and discover a man who can't see himself.

  • Bowmanstown, PA

    The low ratings of this book surprise me. Probably bc it's not neatly wrapped with a bow. The characters are so real, believable, lovable, hateable. I relate to each character in one way or another.

  • Portland, OR

    I loved this book so much! It was super engaging, I couldn't put it down. I loved the reveal with the protagonist - we learn some details about his habits, and I'm still thinking about them.

  • Crofton , MD

    Heartbreaking story of a father and son, their relationship, and the evolution of the father. Really an interesting look into the thoughts and life of dad, and the complications of families.

  • Glendale, AZ

    Loved how the author brought these very realistic human characters to life and didn't skate over the painful truths of dealing with addiction and our own failures. Raw and impressive.

  • Freehold, NJ

    I don't know why I am so captivated by this book, but I had a hard time putting it down! Some points drag, but the overall humor with the serious subject made it my favorite BOTM yet!

  • San Diego, CA

    Humbling and real, this book was just so incredibly human. I loved the intensity with the character development; they were practically walking off the page and into the kitchen.

  • San Leandro, CA

    LOVED IT. I haven't read a book in a while where the characters felt this real and the writing felt this alive. What a beautiful and poignant exploration of family and addiction!

  • Salida, CA

    I loved this story from beginning to end. A wonderful story about how a father changes his understanding of his son's troubles and in return learns something about himself.

  • Oak Park , IL

    At first I was kind of blah on this book but I got WRAPPED UP in it by the end. I thought it was really effective, how the author drew the reader right into Greg's life.

  • Sacramento, CA

    A gorgeous book to match the gorgeous cover. Hunter dazzles while tackling characters that often make you shake your head or outright cringe with the utmost empathy.

  • Burns Flat, OK

    I really loved this book! Can't praise it enough. Lindsay Hunter's vivid portrayal of Greg was SO relatable, it helped me get to know myself and my parents better.

  • Ashland , OH

    This book made me incredibly sad yet I never wanted it to end. Very honest insight into loving someone with an addiction. I will recommend this to everyone.

  • North Aurora, IL

    This was a searing realistic look at one family’s experience with addiction. I loved it and hated it simultaneously because some hit too close to home.

  • Medford, WI

    Love the was the author pulls you in and the way she describes Greg and all of his relationships. I can also kind of relate which was nice too.

  • Lynn, MA

    Roller coaster of emotions. You become really connected to the characters in very different ways. Both hysterical and heart breaking.

  • Brooklyn , NY

    The devotion to save a son and the struggles of surviving addictions had me flipping threw the pages all in a day.

  • Spokane, WA

    This is my favorite BOTM pick so far. A a truly accurate depiction of what it is like to love an addict.

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