Friday, October 26, 2012
SKINNY: A NOVEL by Diana Spechler
A young woman works at a weight-loss camp in an effort to connect with a sister she didn't know about until her father died.
Gray is a 26-year-old woman who has spent the year since her father's death binge eating. Somehow, she has only gained 15 pounds, but she feels consumed by self-loathing and a hunger that is not about food. She decides to spend a summer working at a weight-loss camp for kids, despite not particularly liking children. While there, she hopes to weasel into the affections of a girl who may be her father's love child. At the camp, her "daddy issues" run rampant and she quickly becomes anorexic with the encouragement of a bone-headed PE teacher.
Self-destructive women do not usually appeal to me as characters. By self-destructive, I don't mean Gray's struggle with eating disorders, which could have made for an interesting premise. The way she treats all the people in her life is horrible and selfish, and I found her quite frustrating. There was a Q&A at the end of the Kindle version of the book in which the author talks about how she intentionally created an unlikeable protagonist. It makes for an interesting read, but it doesn't work for me personally. In fact, most of the characters are unlikeable. The only exception is a girl called Spider, but she leaves less than halfway through the book.
Spechler's descriptions of hunger and eating are powerful, and she goes to great lengths to show Gray's guilt and desperation. The prose is often visceral and evocative. However, her actual response to the various eating disorders in the story is not particularly enlightening. The resolution was unsatisfying, and it felt like a missed opportunity to explore the kinds of hunger that are not really about food by tacking on a stilted, guilty ending. This is a book I might recommend for the strong writing alone, but I'm afraid I didn't enjoy reading it.
Diana Spechler's website
$7.99 for the Kindle edition, though I bought it when it was on sale
Have you read a book you really liked with an unlikeable protagonist? What made it enjoyable/worth reading?