By Kristan Higgins
We’ve all seen the shows—thank you, TLC—and let’s be honest. We watch them to make ourselves feel better. Sure, I was fat, but not six-hundred-pounds fat! I wasn’t having KFC fed to me through my bedroom window, was I? I didn’t need the firefighters to chainsaw around the front door so I could fit through, didn’t need a team of eight to drag me out of the house on a sheet. And I always ate healthy food while watching that show. No ice cream during that one, no sir. Ice cream was for The Walking Dead (another show that made me feel good about my appearance).
Kristan was wrongly, in my opinion, accused of fat-shaming in this book. Is the above passage an example of this?
This is my second favorite of her more serious books. Despite the painful and controversial subject matter and the tragic fate of Emerson, it seemed to have a more positive tone than some of the preceding novels, particularly Now that you Mention it. Yes, there was humor in the form of witty and irreverent comments and one or two slapstick episodes. But mostly this book was about triumph, hope, and happy, almost fairytale happy, endings. Also important, to me, is that the good people are rewarded and the bad people are punished. Except for Emerson.
The descent and final fate of Emerson is very sad. Very sad. But it did not cast a pall over the whole book because we already know her fate at the beginning of the book. Her story is told in first person entries in her diary, and is a fairly small percentage of the whole story. Her thoughts and entries were poignant and eye-opening. Because we know what happens, we are spared the suspense and disappointed hopes that she might have her own happy ending. Emerson is rich and I questioned throughout the narrative why doesn’t she get the best therapy money can buy and surgery? That question was not answered by the end, to my satisfaction.
There has been a small percentage of people who have deemed this book toxic to those struggling with weight. I have been quick to defend my favorite contemporary author on numerous venues. But now that I have read the book, I can more easily understand why those who identify with the Emerson character would find it painful. I still feel that “Toxic” is a hateful word that should not be used to describe this book. It is not sugar-coated and is unflinching. It says out loud what many people think. The quotes used to bash this book are taken out of context, however. Kristan has taken on a difficult sensitive topic. She deserves a medal for bravery. The Entertainment Weekly review compared it to “willingly wading into a nest of vipers.” That’s a little overstated, but unfortunately, there is some truth to the comparison. It made me chuckle a bit while wincing. Did she please everyone? No. I consider the passionate negative reaction by some to be a sort of a compliment. Perhaps the topic should be ignored? Her message is body positivity without leaving truth and pain by the wayside. Those who are Reality show fat rarely have happy endings. Truth.
But it is not all about weight issues. Her book is populated with characters that have PTSD and agoraphobia, Plastic surgery addiction, adolescent pain and suicide, anger issues, and it deals with childhood death. The fact that these topics are addressed and the book can still be fun and funny with two heartwarming love stories is a testament to Kristan’s talent. The book is thought-provoking and insightful. One of the incidents that really stands out in my mind is when now slender Georgia goes to her GP because of attacks of stomach pain. The doctor ignores everything she says because of her focus and delight in Georgia’s weight-loss. She is so busy congratulating her and making excuses for her pain that a short time later Georgia is rushed to the hospital with a bleeding ulcer because of her lack of treatment. Not the only time a woman, fat or not, has been ignored or not taken seriously. It adds an extra layer that Georgia’s doctor is a woman.
Some of the characters conquer their demons and others don’t. But all are given cheer-worthy wake-up calls courtesy of our two main heroines. **5 out of 5 stars**
August 15, 2018