Author: Sarah Gerard
Narrator: Sarah Gerard
Where I got it: ListenUp (my employer)
Length: 3 hours
Purchase: ListenUp | Audible
Synopsis: The language of the stars is the language of the body. Like a star, the anorexic burns fuel that isn’t replenished; she is held together by her own gravity.
With luminous, lyrical prose, Binary Star is an impassioned account of a young woman struggling with anorexia and her long-distance, alcoholic boyfriend. On a road-trip circumnavigating the United States, they stumble into a book on veganarchism, and believe they’ve found a direction.
Binary Star is an intense, fast-moving saga of two young lovers and the culture that keeps them sick (or at least inundated with quick-fix solutions); a society that sells diet pills, sleeping pills, magazines that profile celebrities who lose weight or too much weight or put on weight, and books that pimp diet secrets or recipes for success.
Review: Binary Star is a first person novella, often written in stream of consciousness. The main character is a young woman struggling with an eating disorder, which she describes in disturbing detail. She teaches an astronomy lab class and intersperses information about the stars into her thoughts about herself, her body, her disease, her life.
The story is as much about our unnamed protagonist and her disease as it is about her relationship with John. John is her long-distant boyfriend, an alcoholic with faux-concern for her struggle with food. They constantly argue about his drinking and her purging, but the dysfunctional, dependent nature of their relationship doesn’t support the recovery of either. They swing wildly from neediness and affection to tormenting and abusing one another.
(But less cute).
The bulk of the story follows them as they travel cross-country. But it’s not one of those stories in which a road trip brings the couple closer and helps them understand themselves and what they need. They do become militantly vegan and even more insecure in themselves and their relationship, though.
This is not a pleasant beach listen, it’s upsetting and sometimes hard to hear, but it is intensely personal and powerful. Sarah Gerard narrates the story herself. I’m rarely a fan of author narrations, but it was appropriate for her to read this. While she is obviously not a professional narrator – don’t expect nuanced character voices – it works well for the intimate and introspective nature of Binary Star. Listening to her narration is like living in the main character’s disease and her unhappy relationship.
The audiobook is only 3 hours, but those three hours pack a major punch.