Category Archives: Anissa Gray

Review: The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls by Anissa Gray

Title: The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls by Anissa Gray
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Length: 304 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


“The Mothers meets An American Marriage” (HelloGiggles) in this dazzling debut novel about mothers and daughters, identity and family, and how the relationships that sustain you can also be the ones that consume you.

The Butler family has had their share of trials—as sisters Althea, Viola, and Lillian can attest—but nothing prepared them for the literal trial that will upend their lives.

Althea, the eldest sister and substitute matriarch, is a force to be reckoned with and her younger sisters have alternately appreciated and chafed at her strong will. They are as stunned as the rest of the small community when she and her husband Proctor are arrested, and in a heartbeat the family goes from one of the most respected in town to utter disgrace. The worst part is, not even her sisters are sure exactly what happened.

As Althea awaits her fate, Lillian and Viola must come together in the house they grew up in to care for their sister’s teenage daughters. What unfolds is a stunning portrait of the heart and core of an American family in a story that is as page-turning as it is important.


The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls by Anissa Gray is a poignant novel of healing and ultimately, new beginnings.

As older sister Althea and her husband Proctor Cochran await their prison transfers following their conviction and sentencing, sisters Viola and Lillian Butler come together to support their 15 year old nieces, Kim and Baby Vi. In the aftermath of their sister’s and brother-in-law’s fall from grace, they are unexpectedly confronted with the demons from their dysfunctional childhood.  Lillian is living in the family’s newly renovated home with her former grandmother in law and her nieces. She has good reason for her distress when older brother Joe suggests taking his nieces into his care since he abused her during their childhood. Viola left Michigan for Chicago where she lives with her wife, Eva. She has yet to tell her sisters she is suffering a relapse with her bulimia or that she and Eva have separated. Everything comes to a head as Kim and Baby Vi take the brunt of their parents’ crimes from their close-knit community.

The three sisters’ and their brother Joe’s childhood fractured following their mother’s unexpected death. Althea was left to raise her younger siblings who also move in with her and Proctor married when their abusive father became a traveling preacher. Viola, Lillian and Joe eventually move back in with their father but when Viola leaves for college, Joe begins abusing Lillian while he cares for her during their father’s absences. In the present, they are attempting to keep their keep their splintered family together as Althea and Proctor begin their sentences for their crimes.

Lillian tries to keep her anxiety under control through her  OCD-like routines. She cares for her ex-husband’s grandmother while also raising her nieces. Lillian is completely out of her depth taking care of Kim and Baby Vi.  Kim is acting out in school and has become a disciplinary problem as she lashes out at teachers and classmates. Baby Vi is quiet and appears to be taking her new situation in stride but Lillian  fails to notice that all is not right with her niece.

Viola has always been there for her sisters, but due to her overwhelming stress, she is lying to her loved ones as she tries to get her bulimia under control. She is also hoping to repair her troubled marriage, but Eva has not been receptive to her overtures. Despite her training as a therapist, Viola is ill-equipped to care for Baby Vi and Kim full-time. As her well-intentioned suggestions backfire, her confidence nose-dives as her nieces’ struggles intensify. Viola is also reluctant to agree to Althea’s and Lillian’s requests to make sure Joe does not gain custody of the girls.

As she awaits her transfer to federal prison, Althea struggles to accept responsibility for her role in her and Proctor’s downfall. She is also dealing with her anger toward Kim and her refusal to see her daughters is having an adverse effect on them. It is not until Proctor is honest with her about her behavior that she begins to realize how her choices and actions have  harmed their girls and ultimately, their family.

Alternating between the sisters’ points of view, The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls is an emotionally compelling portrait of a family in crisis.  Viola, Lillian, Kim and Baby Vi are extremely sympathetic characters whose struggles will resonate with readers.  Althea is hard to like or empathize with due to her inability to see or accept her faults.  As the story reaches a crisis point, Anissa Gray brings the novel to a deeply affecting and uplifting conclusion.  A heartfelt debut that I found impossible to put down and highly recommend.

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