Cover image for Bitter ice : a memoir of love, food, and obsession
Bitter ice : a memoir of love, food, and obsession
Lawrence, Barbara Kent.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Rob Weisbach Books, [1999]

Physical Description:
xi, 335 pages ; 25 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
RC552.A5 L385 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Intimate, revealing, and refreshingly frank, Bitter Ice tells of a wife's search for independence and self while living in the shadow of her husband's battle with anorexia.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

This scene from a marriage is all the more compelling because it is true. When Barbara marries Tom, he is already exhibiting signs of anorexia. Compounding the problem is that anorexia was, and in some circles still is, thought of as a woman's disease. So Tom's bizarre behavior, including obsessive running, ice baths, starvation, and saunas every day, is not diagnosed through most of the couple's marriage. They struggle to build a life that includes two children. But at almost every turn, it is sabotaged by Tom's disease and its accompanying behavior. It hurts the couple's work lives and damages their relationships with family and friends. Even when he steals food from a colleague in their real-estate business and when he weighs next to nothing, Barbara seems to be in denial. In writing this chronicle of her marriage, Lawrence provides an all too clear picture of her own complicity in her husband's illness. However, the toll it exacts from their life together and their relationships with others is the real story. --Marlene Chamberlain

Publisher's Weekly Review

This revealing but rather suffocating memoir chronicles Lawrence's horrendous 27-year marriage to Tom, a severely disturbed anorexic. Although both came from privileged homes, each of their childhoods was marked by a lack of parental love. Shortly after their marriage, Tom's daily rituals of jogging, followed by alternating ice baths and saunas, began to dominate their lives. His obsession with eating only foods he deemed healthful kept him painfully thin. He also made demands on Lawrence to eat less, even though she was pregnant with their first child. After the birth of their second child, Tom was briefly hospitalized for psychiatric problems, at which time a physician told him, in response to his inquiry, that only women could be anorexic. After his release, Tom's eating disorder became more noticeable, while Lawrence turned into a classic enabler: she isolated herself from family and friends, hid the severity of her husband's condition and did nothing to interfere with his self-destructive bent. Lawrence devotes a good deal of her account to detailing her husband's controlling nature and truly disgusting habits (he was observed spitting into the family's food, among other indecencies), which alienated his children as well as the people hired to work in the real estate office that Tom and she jointly ran. Lawrence's focus is on describing her own unhappiness and suffering, which was considerable, rather than on shedding any light on anorexia, other than highlighting the symptoms. She does, however, accept responsibility for her contribution to this destructive marriage that ended in divorce. Author tour. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Lawrence has put together a troubling yet fascinating memoir of her marriage to an alcoholic with anorexia and other obsessive-compulsive disorders. She details many of the manifestations of his disease, such as ritualized and prolonged exercise, food binges involving "forbidden" foods, and an intense fear of bloating that prevented him from drinking water. (The "bitter ice" in the title refers to the husband's habit of constantly crunching ice chips to suppress hunger pangs as well as to get some fluid into his body.) What is most disturbing about the book is how long Lawrence stayed with her husband even though his behavior progressively disintegrated. Lawrence does detail her own dysfunctional childhood in an attempt to explain why she felt compelled to stay with someone who constantly denigrated her. Although she eventually broke free of him, it is obvious that writing this book was an attempt to exorcise some leftover demons. Recommended.√ĄPamela A. Matthews, Gettysburg Coll. Lib., PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.