Sunday, March 13, 2016
13 Ways of Looking At A Fat Girl by Mona Awad
Published February 2016 by Penguin Publishing Group
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher through Netgalley
Growing up in the suburban hell of Misery Saga (a.k.a. Mississauga), Lizzie has never liked the way she looks—even though her best friend Mel says she’s the pretty one. She starts dating guys online, but she’s afraid to send pictures, even when her skinny friend China does her makeup: she knows no one would want her if they could really see her. So she starts to lose. With punishing drive, she counts almonds consumed, miles logged, pounds dropped. She fights her way into coveted dresses. She grows up and gets thin, navigating double-edged validation from her mother, her friends, her husband, her reflection in the mirror. But no matter how much she loses, will she ever see herself as anything other than a fat girl?
I'm not really sure what drew me to this book. Having struggled with body image and weight most of my life, I suppose I'm always looking for people who can poke fun at it without being mean, people who seem to really understand what it's like to go through life in a body you're never comfortable in. Somewhere in the pitch for this, I understood there would be humor. In other reviews of the book, they talk about the book being "bitingly" funny.
For me, not so much. The novel is really a series of stories in Lizzie's life. Early on, I did find some humor in some of the stories, oddly when Lizzie was at her heaviest, a time you would expect to feel most sorry for her. But thin Beth (as she later preferred to be called in her effort to redefine herself), was much more painful to read about. As she struggles to lose the weight, she finds less and less to be happy about in life. She stops taking joy in music, she loses touch with the friends who "knew her when," and her marriage suffers because nothing is more important to her than her body.
It's not just Lizzie who is heavy; her mother's weight eventually results in the health problems we're always warned about. When Lizzie's thin and her mother's gone, Lizzie spends a lot of time looking for comfort in heavy women. She also spends a lot of time judging other women and worried that others are still judging her.
Which was all just to hard for me to read. To consider the idea that I could spend the next couple of years fighting my own struggling only to still not be happy with my body, to lose the inability to enjoy food (and, dammit, I really don't want to do that!), to still feel like my weight defines me, perhaps more than ever.
This was, obviously, a tough read for me. I suppose that means Awad struck at truth; she certainly made me have all of the feelings about Lizzie.