author of Feeding Eden

Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America Review of Feeding Eden

The following review was written in Asthma and Allergy Bulletin of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, New England Chapter, Spring 2013.

Share the Trials and Triumphs of a Food Allergy Family

Reviewed by Rose Ann Miller

I am almost nervous to review Susan Weissman’s Feeding Eden because I worry that I will not be able to fully and accurately express just how good, how helpful, and how meaningful this book has been to me.

When my five-year-old son was diagnosed with severe food allergies at 18 months of age, I felt completely untethered. It’s scary enough to bring up a child in this world. What with diapers, feeding schedules, booster shots, and teething all parents have their hands full. But then, to discover that your child has not just an allergy but also a life- threatening allergy made me feel vulnerable and alone. And the truly scary thing is that this reaction—one that mimics having the wind knocked out of one’s chest—is natural. How can a mother encourage her child to grow and explore the world when that world, the one that lies just beyond the window, is toxic to him in so many ways?

My perspective and my feelings changed once I read Weissman’s tour de force Feeding Eden. Not only is the book well written and engaging, but Weissman speaks to parents and caregivers of food allergic children. And she speaks to us as a friend. You get the sense that you and the author are sitting cozily, side-by-side on the sofa while she relays her journey through food allergies with her son, Eden. The author really lets you into her world; each story is intimate and revealing. In fact, Weissman was so forthcoming and so open about her feelings that I almost wanted to lean over and say, “wait, let me share my story too.”

Weisman’s story begins when Eden is just a baby and has horrible eczema. Actually horrible is a misnomer. Eden’s eczema is nightmarish. He also has trouble eating, sleeping, he cries a lot, is clingy... the list goes on. Feeding Eden chronicles Weissman’s journey to find the right pediatrician and allergist for her son. She has a lot of trial and error until she finds a correct diagnosis for Eden and the right doctors for him. While Weissman finds the right doctor, she explores and relays the medical side of food allergies, but in a way that’s easy to understand. She also takes us inside her family’s kitchen, sharing her knowledge about recipes and how to navigate holiday gatherings, birthday parties, and school celebrations. Reader: I cried at Weissman’s stories. The day-to-day situations that Weissman describes are so real to the parent of a food allergic child that I wept with joy that there was someone out there who understood my heartache for my son and his situation.

Weissman has a loving husband, as do I, and another child without food allergies—me too. She relates how her family has reached a stasis when it comes to food. Everyone may have a sandwich for dinner, she says, but not everyone’s sandwich will look the same. When it was time to make a birthday cake for Eden, Weissman relentlessly and tirelessly makes cake after cake until, finally, she finds one that’s right.

Throughout Feeding Eden Weissman is confessional—even delving into dark places. She bravely admits (something I’ve thought plenty but never had the guts to speak aloud) that she almost feels calmer when Eden has a reaction because she can actually do something. What she means is something that I’ve felt too: I worry. Every moment my son exists is a moment when he could, realistically, have a reaction. While he is not consciously aware of the risks at this age, I am. However when he is having a reaction (my son, like Eden, has had anaphylaxis a few times), the epinephrine has been used and he’s been fine.

Weissman is neither hyperbolic nor belittling about Eden’s situation and the day-to-day challenges. She tells it like it is. I cannot say enough good things about Feeding Eden. Actually, the only thing I didn’t like about the book is that it had to end.

I encourage you to read Feeding Eden. I know you will benefit from Weissman’s candid retelling of her own difficult story. To me, the book was a lifeline that I am still clinging to, still savoring and appreciating.


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