• Empty

  • A Memoir
  • By: Susan Burton
  • Narrated by: Susan Burton
  • Length: 9 hrs and 51 mins
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (331 ratings)

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Empty

By: Susan Burton
Narrated by: Susan Burton
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Publisher's Summary

An editor at This American Life reveals the searing story of the secret binge-eating that dominated her adolescence and shapes her still.

“Her tale of compulsion and healing is candid and powerful.” (People)

Named One of the Best Books of the Year by Marie Claire

For almost 30 years, Susan Burton hid her obsession with food and the secret life of compulsive eating and starving that dominated her adolescence. This is the relentlessly honest, fiercely intelligent story of living with both anorexia and binge-eating disorder, moving past her shame, and learning to tell her secret. 

When Burton was 13, her stable life in suburban Michigan was turned upside down by her parents’ abrupt divorce, and she moved to Colorado with her mother and sister. She seized on this move west as an adventure and an opportunity to reinvent herself from middle-school nerd to popular teenage girl. But in the fallout from her parents’ breakup, an inherited fixation on thinness went from “peculiarity to pathology.” 

Susan entered into a painful cycle of anorexia and binge eating that formed a subterranean layer to her sunny life. She went from success to success - she went to Yale, scored a dream job at a magazine right out of college, and married her college boyfriend. But in college the compulsive eating got worse - she’d binge, swear it would be the last time, and then, hours later, do it again - and after she graduated she descended into anorexia, her attempt to "quit food".

Binge eating is more prevalent than anorexia or bulimia, but there is less research and little storytelling to help us understand it. In tart, soulful prose Susan Burton strikes a blow for the importance of this kind of narrative and tells an exhilarating story of longing, compulsion and hard-earned self-revelation.

©2020 Susan Burton (P)2020 Random House Audio

What listeners say about Empty

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Pick another book

I selected this book because I like memoirs and had read good reviews. In listening to the book, I found the author to be self absorbed, selfish and unlikeable. I felt drowned in detail and unsatisfied at the end of the book which didn’t provide any kind of remorse or awakening but rather a catharsis for the author in telling her story. Good for her and the message to own and tell our stories but I wish I hadn’t spent 9+ hours giving her the attention and entitlement it seems that’s she’s had her whole life without any sort of reciprocity to others.

13 people found this helpful

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I felt hurt and disappointed reading this book

The writer is a talented storyteller but to listen to the whole book without her even once addressing the privilege she had as a young white woman at Yale who seemed to have endless amounts of money to buy food - well, I just found myself wanting to cry... If even once she had addressed her privilege, and how she understands that not everyone has enough money to buy endless amounts of food for binging... If only once she had shown she understands her privilege, I would have felt she was someone I wanted to listen to. I kept listening to the book, hoping this maturity would occur. It does not. We get to the end of the book, she is in her 40s, and still, she fails to show she understands the privilege of her life. I think the book should come with a warning: this is a book about a very privileged woman. Be clear about it. Otherwise, be warned: you may end up feeling invisible, angry, and hurt if you read this book. I was very disappointed that this talented author couldn't have told her story with more awareness of her privilege.

9 people found this helpful

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Author Admits She Suffers From an Eating Disorder

I bought this to hear how someone overcame binge eating disorder. Instead, at the end of the book the author admits this book is about claiming the disorder and admitting she has the disorder. Well-written but disappointing.

7 people found this helpful

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Interesting memoir; poor narration

The audible tendency to have books read by their author is often a mistake. Writing an excellent book is a different skill then performing one. This is an interesting, brave work, dully and flatly told. I would have preferred to read the book.

5 people found this helpful

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Absolutely beautiful writing

This author’s writing is beautiful beyond measure. It’s been a few years since I read prose as gorgeous as this. She’s very talented. My only criticism is the vocal fry in her voice. Very hard to listen to.

4 people found this helpful

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A detailed glimpse into life with anorexia/bulimia

This is obviously a very personal work, and parts seemed to provide a detailed glimpse into what life is like for someone with an eating disorder. Other parts of the book seemed obsessively repetitious. The story ended when the author was a young adult, with little about how her eating disorder affected being a wife and mother. Other than finding an empathic analyst, it's not clear to me what an effective treatment of eating disorders involves.

3 people found this helpful

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A Reader's Comments

This is a phenomenal memoir. Susan Burton's story is inspiring for those that have an eating disorder. By the end of the book it had me wanting to learn about eating disorders in men. As someone who struggles with eating healthy, this memoir has inspired me to get the help I need.

3 people found this helpful

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Slow, uninteresting, barely covers eating disorders

I'm already half way through the book and the author has barely covered the subject of eating disorders. The author mostly focuses on family and her relationships with her parents. It makes for a boring so far but I'll update my review if it gets better.

1 person found this helpful

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An amazing story

She does an incredible job explaining the thoughts and actions behind eating disorders. This book will help those who suffer from ED and those who love them.

1 person found this helpful

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Connection to emotions

Loved this! As a woman who has struggled with binge eating disorder, and the shame and self-loathing that goes with it, I appreciated the emotional transparency in this memoir. Susan Burton's candor helped me to put words to my emotional struggle. She is brave and selfless!

1 person found this helpful