A Darkly Imaginative Exploration of Trauma and Healing in How to Be Eaten by Maria Adelmann

book cover of How to Be Eaten by Maria AdelmannMaria Adelmann’s debut novel How to Be Eaten is a captivating and thought-provoking work that reimagines classic fairy tale characters as modern women struggling to reconcile their trauma. The setting is modern-day New York City, the story unfolds in the basement of a nondescript building, housing a support group where five women come together to process their individual traumas.

The characters are each unique in their experiences and their personalities and they all process their trauma in their own way. Bernice, scarred from an abusive relationship with a blue-bearded millionaire, grapples with the aftermath of her romance. Her story is something that many women can resonate with unfortunately. Ruby, literally devoured by a wolf as a child, and now wears his pelt like a coat, can be related to on a more symbolic level. The themes of her story, childhood trauma and how it affects women in their adult years, are heartbreaking as she literally wears a reminder of her trauma on her back. Ashlee, a Bachelor-esque reality TV show winner, questions her “fairy tale” ending and if it was worth what she went through to get it. This is the only character not based around an ancient tale, and yet her experience still reflects the lessons these stories were used to teach. Gretel struggles with reconciling the abandonment and subsequent kidnapping she experienced as a child, her memories being called into question by outsiders as well as her own family. She is a classic example of the phenomenon of society being less likely to believe a woman’s story without substantial proof. And Raina, the oldest of the group, is the one whose story holds a groundbreaking twist for everyone involved. These women are relatable and familiar, yet subversive. The support group is led by a seemingly well meaning therapist, Will, but as the women move through their trauma, he’s perhaps not as well meaning as he appears to be.

Adelmann tackles dark topics of trauma and woman’s suffering, and yet she’s able to match this with comedy and wit, it’s a fine balance, as can be seen when Ashlee says, “I mean, if we have to be honest, I guess I should mention that I don’t really know if I belong here? … Like, I’m famous for falling in love, where you guys are famous for what? Weird tragedies? Regurgitated by a wolf? Locked in some loser’s mansion? I mean, no offense.” This subversive retelling of classic fairy tales will leave you thinking about power, identity, the patriarchy, and how it affects the women and men in this story and outside of it. How to Be Eaten is a powerful, darkly funny, and captivating read about trauma and healing for those of us that can’t help but reflect on how society and our past affects our present.

Get the book! Check out How to Be Eaten by Maria Adelmann at BMCC’s Library, the New York Public Library, the Brooklyn Public Library, or the Queens Public Library.

illustration of fairies gathered under a mushroom and looking at a frogAbout the author Ramsey is an avid reader, writer, and all around creative. In her spare time she likes to crochet, cook, and create worlds. She is entering into her final semester at BMCC and hopes you find something entertaining to read through her reviews.

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Author avatar by John Anster Fitzgerald, in the public domain

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