Revelation at the Food Bank Cover

These powerful essays share critical moments of a writer’s life: scenes from sixty years of passionate married love; suicides faced and suicide contemplated; trauma at the DMV; a night lost searching for a harpsichord in the mountains of Florence, Italy; the tale of a beloved cousin whose plane is shot down by Japanese Zeros; and a precious friendship between two women writers derailed by the poisons of religion and politics. In the titular essay (included in Best American Essays 2023) a food bank, assuaging the pandemic’s terrors with gifts of food and prayers, becomes a portal for intimate confidences entrusted to us by a voice of unspoiled authenticity and perennial vigor.


“Often hilarious, deeply moving and warmly engaging, Merrill Joan Gerber’s collection of memoirist essays is delightful reading. ‘I have a lot to say from my own mouth’—so Gerber confides in her readers with admirable candor and enviable chutzpah. There is much here that is unnervingly intimate—close-ups of a very long marriage, painful memories of a brother-in-law who was abusive to his family before taking his own life, the disappointments as well as the rewards of an intense friendship with a famous woman writer embittered by religion and politics—all of it narrated in Merrill Joan Gerber’s distinctive voice.”

—Joyce Carol Oates, author of Zero-Sum

“Written from her deepest truths, these intimate essays can be heartbreaking, maybe because we see ourselves in each of them. But they are told with such humor, such delicacy, that we close the book sighing, Yes, this is life! And this is why Merrill Joan Gerber has been one of my favorites for decades.”

—Judy Blume, author of Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret

“Uncommonly candid, honest, emotionally precise; irresistibly scrappy, edgy, visceral. Sentence by sentence, one of the best collections of personal essays I’ve read in years.”

—Robert Atwan, Series Editor, The Best American Essays

" ‘Revelation at the Food Bank’, the essay that anchors Merrill Joan Gerber’s collection, gives voice to the widespread rage of the covid and post-covid era. If Gerber’s anger is universal, her expression of it is wholly her own—brutally honest, transgressive and at times hilarious. The subsequent ten pieces, including a contentious exchange with Cynthia Ozick on the subject of Jewish identity, present in kaleidoscopic form the complexity of her art.”

—Joan Givner, author of Playing Sarah Bernhardt

“Merrill Gerber’s new collection of essays adds up to a rich record of twentieth-century literary life, largely epistolary, in a period when epistles were epistles, not faxes, emails, texts or DMs. Closer to the present, she addresses the way we live now with a fine blend of pathos and wit, an exact intuition for the telling and well-timed detail, and all the freshness she must have had when she first picked up her stylus long ago.”

—Madison Smartt Bell, author of The Witch of Matongé

“Merrill Joan Gerber is one of those fortunate writers on whom nothing is lost.
Every encounter, every venture into the world leaves deep traces, which she recreates for her readers in exquisitely wry and wise language. Revelation at the Food Bank is rooted in intimacies, and yet touches on universal experience.”

—Lynne Sharon Schwartz, author of Truthtelling: Stories, Fables, Glimpses

“There are books that can be put together only after the author has turned eighty. Revelation At The Food Bank is one of them. Merrill Gerber’s language—hot, bright, bitter—as applied to marriage and the writing life is the work of one who has nothing to lose. Thus, her memoir is exciting, brutally honest, above all memorable.”

—Vivian Gornick, author of Taking a Long Look: Essays on Culture, Literature, and Feminism in Our Time

“Novelist Gerber (Beauty and the Breast) brings together intimate personal essays in this stirring compendium. The hilarious title essay weaves an account of how Gerber found unexpected community at a church’s food pantry (’They give me gifts, they welcome me…. I’m a Jewish girl, but I’ve never known the rewards of religion. Is it too late?’) with reflections on the small annoyances that accumulated over her 62-year marriage (’Why does he put so much cream cheese on his bagel?’)…. Gerber is a witty and astute observer with a keen eye for detail…. Elevated by Gerber’s wry voice and crystalline prose, this impresses.”

Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Merrill Joan Gerber has written thirty books, including The Kingdom of Brooklyn, winner of the Ribalow Award from Hadassah Magazine, and King of the World, winner of the Pushcart Editors’ Book Award. Her fiction has been published in the New Yorker, the Sewanee Review, the Atlantic, Mademoiselle, and Redbook, and her essays in the American Scholar, Salmagundi, and Commentary. She has won an O. Henry Award, a Best American Essays award, and a Wallace Stegner fiction fellowship to Stanford University. She retired in 2020 after teaching writing at the California Institute of Technology for thirty-two years. Her literary archive is now at the Yale Beinecke Rare Book Library.

pub date: 2023-12-04
$21.95 | 206 pages
isbn: 978-1-952386-70-1 (paperback)
Cover design by Anne Marie Hantho