I know I’ve read a great book when I’m still thinking about it months after I’ve turned the final pages. Carrie Rubin’s Eating Bull is one of those books. It is a tightly crafted thriller, told from the point of view of three characters: Jeremy, an overweight, bullied teen whose favorite friend is food; Sue, the pubic health nurse on a mission to sue to food industry for their reckless manipulation of consumers; and, finally, Darwin, the mystery serial killer who is targeting the obese. It’s a mix of mystery whodunit, horror story, and public health crisis all rolled into one.
Many of the characters are suffering some past emotional trauma which is pulled into their eating habits. This backdrop makes these characters seem all the more human and vulnerable. I thought Carrie did a masterful job of telling a horrific story, alongside the complexities of food.
While eating is foremost about survival, it is so much more than that in the modern era of food convenience and choices. Food relates to our health, quality of life, eating habits, social gatherings, and family. Socio-economic factors play a role, too, and often hinder access to healthy food or enough food. Food is not an equal opportunity for all.
After reading Carrie’s book, I pondered this complex issue of food and how it related to my life. More recently, I have attempted a few clean eating challenges offered by my boot camp, because we know exercise isn’t enough and especially as we age. Sigh. On a positive note, I’ve spent most of my life not worrying about calories and meal choices and their impact on my health. Now that I’m getting older, it’s not so easy. So, I took on these clean eating challenges, which meant eating mostly real food, either from the ground or from an animal. While I’d like to be vegetarian, so far I’m not. Nothing processed, nothing out of a box, and very little sugar or salt.
In these efforts to control my eating choices, I could relate to Carrie’s characters in her book. My meal choices of lean protein and vegetables were quite similar to those of Sue. As we are made aware of her restrictive choices, it feels as if Sue, too, is noting them for herself. I also identified with Jeremy’s hunger for more, even when I wasn’t hungry. It’s emotional eating and I never felt this so strongly as I did when everything I loved was removed, especially carbs! I missed snacking. It was tough.
Jeremy’s mother Connie also has her share of challenges of feeding her family healthy options with limited time and resources, not to mention with different needs in mind. Would her son and father eat the same foods, for example? This is a constant struggle with my household and cafeteria-style planning and eating. When I did the clean eating challenge (for six weeks) it meant cooking separate meals for my family, which made it extra challenging. While there may be solutions for all these problems, it doesn’t make them any easier.
What’s more, there’s a public health scenario looming in the story: suing the food industry. I, for one, did not think this was that far-fetched. While it may never happen, I hope Carrie’s book encourages a careful look at their practices.
For example, no matter how much willpower I have, I can’t just have one stop at the Famous Amos cookie box. I just can’t!! One reach turns into three. I lost count of the number of cookies.
And then I saw this video about how America is getting hooked on processed food. You must watch this eye-opening video. Have you ever heard of “Vanishing Caloric Density”? It’s no wonder I love cheese puffs so much!
Talk about reckless manipulation of consumers. Carrie weaves all these complex issues with a serial killer on the loose. All the while, the issues don’t get lost in the story or take over, but add layers of intrigue for a compelling, entertaining read.
It’s no wonder that Eating Bull is the silver medal winner in the Independent Publisher Book Awards (IPPY) for Great Lakes, Best Regional Fiction. Congratulations to Carrie!
Here’s a link to Eating Bull on Amazon. If you haven’t read it, pick up a copy today.