“Neither the void or the cliff above it look the same to me as they do to normal people. The void, for me, has stuff in it, so it’s not a void anymore; and the cliff is engulfed by a black and measureless haze,” (Khoda 17).
Twenty-three year old Lydia is living alone and away from her mother for the first time. Recently putting her mother in a long-term care home, Lydia has just moved into a studio space in London and is about to start interning at a famous art gallery. But she’s hungry, and the only food that will keep her fed is blood, because Lydia and her mother are vampires. Long since shamed into surviving only on pig-blood, which her mother identifies as a filthy animals, Lydia yearns to eat the sashimi and ramen that her Japanese father, who died before she was born, ate and spends her time not working on art watching YouTube eating videos. Struggling with her mixed-ethnic identity, Lydia struggles for how to be in the world on her own.
I’m a simple girl. If you tell me a book has a vampire in it, there is a 100% chance I will read it. Mix that in with vampirism as a clever metaphor for something like, I don’t know, Catholicism and fanaticism in religion (no I will NOT stop talking about Midnight Mass), then I am even more likely to consume it. Woman, Eating offered an interesting concept with a mixed-ethnic vampire artist struggling with eating, her identity as an artist, and living on her own, but it just didn’t satisfy me.
Kohda is an excellent writer. I enjoyed reading Woman, Eating just for the prose and the book definitely falls into the “Sad Girl” genre that’s been becoming popular in the past few years, and changing it up with a vampire protagonist was definitely a fun choice. It makes sense why not much happens in this book, “Sad Girl” fiction is generally more about characterization, so focused on the depression and loneliness felt by our protagonist that nothing else really needs to happen in the plot. But there isn’t much character to Lydia, while most “sad girls” have some sort of self-deprecating humour Lydia just wallows in self-pity. It’s understandable as we learn about her upbringing, but it gets a bit too bleak sometimes and makes for a disconnect between Lydia and the reader. Protagonists don’t have to be likable, but there should be something in them that draws the reader to them.
And since no real characterization of our protagonist is taking place, readers then rely on a plot that also doesn’t happen because that’s not what the “sad girl” genre is. But Kohda had all the threads open for something to happen, and while I don’t know the exact timeline of the book it seems to be no more than a few days, a week or two at most. There’s a specific plotline with a character at the art gallery she interns with that seems to promise some sort of deeper plotline but isn’t brought up again or resolved until the bitter end. There are also some very good thoughts about identity, belonging, and food, but even this isn’t fully realized until the very end. It was such an interesting concept that I felt readers had no time to process or fully appreciate because of the hastiness it’s revealed.
While Woman, Eating was a disappointing read, it isn’t going to stop me from reading Kohda’s work. She has an excellent voice, and while this one left me hungry I hope that the next will keep me satisfied.
Publication: April 12th 2022
Pages: 240 pages (Hardcover)
Genre: Fiction, Adult, Paranormal, Horror
My Rating: ⛤⛤.5
Lydia is hungry. She’s always wanted to try Japanese food. Sashimi, ramen, onigiri with sour plum stuffed inside – the food her Japanese father liked to eat. And then there is bubble tea and iced-coffee, ice cream and cake, and foraged herbs and plants, and the vegetables grown by the other young artists at the London studio space she is secretly squatting in. But, Lydia can’t eat any of these things. Her body doesn’t work like those of other people. The only thing she can digest is blood, and it turns out that sourcing fresh pigs’ blood in London–where she is living away from her vampire mother for the first time – is much more difficult than she’d anticipated.
Then there are the humans–the other artists at the studio space, the people at the gallery she interns at, the strange men that follow her after dark, and Ben, a boyish, goofy-grinned artist she is developing feelings for. Lydia knows that they are her natural prey, but she can’t bring herself to feed on them. In her windowless studio, where she paints and studies the work of other artists, binge-watches Buffy the Vampire Slayer and videos of people eating food on YouTube and Instagram, Lydia considers her place in the world. She has many of the things humans wish for–perpetual youth, near-invulnerability, immortality–but, she is miserable; she is lonely; and she is hungry–always hungry.
As Lydia develops as a woman and an artist, she will learn that she must reconcile the conflicts within her–between her demon and human sides, her mixed ethnic heritage, and her relationship with food, and, in turn, humans if she is to find a way to exist in the world. Before any of this, however, she must eat.