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This review is from: Big Brother (Paperback)
Lionel Shriver is perhaps best known for her novel We need to Talk about Kevin which tells the story of a school massacre told through the eyes of the perpetrator's mother. It was a phenomenal success and divided opinion. If, in the unlikely event you haven't yet done so, it is certainly worth reading now.
In Big Brother, Shriver tackles the controversial question of obesity, especially in American society. The story is narrated by Pandora, a middle-aged woman living with her husband Fletcher Feuerbach and stepchildren Tanner and Cody. She has always looked up to her big brother Edison, a jazz musician, who left home at a relatively early age. Out of the blue Edison announces he is coming for a visit having been virtually out of touch for several years. When Pandora collects him at the airport she is appalled at just how obese her brother has become. She herself is overweight (although nothing on the scale of Edison's obesity) while her husband has, himself, an uneasy relationship with food, practically living on brown rice and broccoli; in addition he is addicted to exercise in the form of cycling.- and is quite superior in his attitude to his wife and brother-in-law.
With the arrival of Edison, the atmosphere becomes increasingly fraught in the Feuerbach household and when Fletcher presents Pandora with an ultimatum - him or her brother, she chooses Edison and they move out and into an apartment together where Pandora becomes her brother's diet guru! And so the battle begins... There are a lot more facets to this story, including Edison and Pandora's upbringing.
Despite none of the characters being particularly engaging, I still enjoyed the book since Shriver, as is usual with her, does not shirk from criticism of obesity and gives an interesting perspective to this ever-growing (no pun intended) problem. She also draws a comparison between obesity and weight problems in general and social status. She makes a good fist of shattering the myth that when hugely overweight people lose massive amounts of weight they immediately become happy and well-adjusted human beings. I considered this aspect of the issue interesting and very convincingly handled.
I find Shriver's writing style appealing and easy to assimilate but thought this book lacked a deeper narrative as the reasons for Edison's obesity are never explored in any real sense. I would still, however, advise readers that this is a novel worth reading.