I first met Susan Weissman, author of Feeding Eden, about a year ago at a food allergy press event shortly after her book had been published. When we met again last summer at a food allergy walk we exchanged books. I had read it less than a week later but I’ve been procrastinating on writing this review; I feared that I wouldn’t be able to properly capture the essence of Susan’s story. I decided that Valentine’s Day is the ideal day to post this review, because the book is – first and foremost – a love story.
The book’s title and subtitle, Feeding Eden: The Trials and Triumphs of a Food Allergy Family, may not quite do the story justice. It’s less about “feeding” than it is about “nurturing,” and a more apt sub-title might be “A Mother’s Story.” The book is unique in that it is a memoir from the mother’s perspective.
As authors and writers, we all have our unique style. Unlike my prescriptive how-to approach, Susan captures raw emotion, writing about her own vulnerabilities and what it feels like to be a parent raising a child with food allergies. I am in awe of what she has accomplished with this book – it is a spectacular piece of art.
I have met Eden. He is a bright-eyed boy with a big smile who shook my hand when we were introduced. Other than his smallish size (something I wouldn’t question given his mother’s petite frame), he is a perfectly normal, well-adjusted, well-behaved child. If it weren’t for his frequent visits back to the table where we were signing books to ask his mother to review the ingredients of a sample he picked up before he ate it, I would never know that he suffered from life-threatening food allergies. And therein lies one of the biggest challenges food-allergy parents face: Food allergies are a disability you can’t see. This is just one of the many things that Susan and I passionately agree on.
While the book does contain some discussion of food, and food trials, and food handling, and food allergy diagnosis, it’s not really about the food or the food allergies. It’s about what it feels like to be a parent with a child whose illness can’t be pinpointed. It’s about spending more time in doctor’s office and waiting rooms than your own home. It’s about exploring the best way to help your child – and the questioning and self-doubt that comes along with every decision we make. It’s about selecting treatments and finding that not everything – or every doctor – works for you. It’s about being paralyzed by the fear of doing the wrong thing while at the same time being propelled by the need to take action.
Throughout the book Susan shares the challenges that she and her husband faced while making choices for Eden – some that worked and others that didn’t. She shares the challenges of dealing with other (possibly related) medical and developmental issues at the same time. But she portrays her choices as personal. She never claims to have the answer. She never judges.
As I read the book I could hear myself in the story. While the details of our stories vary dramatically, the essence of our stories is the same.
This is a highly recommended read for all parents. Kudos to Susan Weissman for sharing her story in such a powerful way. Happy Valentine’s Day.