Woman, Eating by Claire Kohda
“I’m not really sure what I am anymore, though — whether I am a monster or whether I’m just a woman, or both.”
Usually, June is full of fluffy romance novels and cozy mysteries perfect for reading on a sandy beach. However, we’re doing something a little different this year. If you haven’t noticed, a new trend has popped up in bookstores. End caps are being filled with displays titled “#booktock,” “He’s a 10 but”…, and my personal favorite, “Unhinged Women.”
This June, in support of women’s rights (and wrongs), we’ll be devouring an inventive and charming revival of the vampire genre, Woman, Eating by Claire Kohda.
This mischievous debut follows a mixed-race woman vampire caught at a crossroads. Lydia is hungry. She can’t stop searching YouTube videos titled “What I Eat in a Day,” obsessed with watching other people eat ramen, bubble tea, ice cream, and home-grown veggies. But Lydia can’t eat any of it. Her body doesn’t work the way a human’s does. Her body can only digest blood. Unfortunately, her usual food source, pig’s blood, isn’t as easy to find in London as it was in the small town she previously lived in with her mother. Now that her mom is in a nursing home and Lydia is alone in a new city, her life has become much more complicated than anticipated.
Lydia is surrounded by humans.
The other artists at the studio space, the people working at the gallery she interns at, the strange man who seems to be following her after dark, and Ben, a goofy yet loveable artist she has growing feelings for. These humans are her natural prey, but Lydia can’t bring herself to feed on them. As she navigates the stressors of adulthood and a quickly intensifying hunger, Lydia considers her place in the world. She has immortality and perpetual youth, two things most humans would kill for, yet she feels deeply isolated and starved for something beyond nourishment.
Woman, Eating touches on intense topics, including cultural alienation, disordered eating, emotional abuse, sexual assault, and caring for an aging parent, with a refreshing sensitivity. Something that I haven’t seen often in similar stories. Kohda conveys Lydia’s disconnection from the human experiences she desperately wants in a profoundly visceral way, allowing the reader to identify with what would usually be the story’s villain.
As far as vampire novels go, Woman, Eating is modern and essential in this new era of literature.
Lydia’s thirst for blood isn’t nearly as chilling as the creepy men she encounters throughout the book. Through these encounters, Kohda does a great job of portraying Lydia’s alienation and sense of powerlessness. More dark novels, vampire-themed or not, could learn a thing or two from the feelings of intimacy Woman, Eating allows.
Although there is a much longer list of things I enjoyed about Woman, Eating, there were a few structural problems within the novel. The pacing was uneven, and some plot strands were left hanging. As someone who loves a “no plot, just vibes” book, these issues didn’t ruin the story for me, but they might ruin it for you, so I want to mention them.
Woman, Eating by Claire Kohda is now out in paperback! Order a copy from Bookshop Benicia to devour on your next flight.
Night Shift Mocktail
- ½ cup tart cherry juice
- 1 thumb ginger, microplaned
- ½ lime juiced
- Orange zest
- 2oz coconut cream
- Optional blue food dye
- Combine all ingredients except for coconut cream.
- Pour over ice.
- Mix the coconut cream (use a frother for a fluffy texture) and pour over top! If you’re using food dye, add it to the coconut cream before frothing.
- You can make an orange zest salt rim and lime slice for fancy garnish!