"A woman is at a loss to control her morbidly obese brother in the latest feat of unflinching social observation from Shriver...Pandora, the narrator of this smartly turned novel, is a happily settled 40-something living in a just-so Iowa home...Her brother, Edison, is a New York jazz pianist who's hit the skids, and when he calls hoping to visit for a while, she's happy to assist. But she's aghast to discover he's ballooned from a trim 163 to nearly 400 pounds...the book truly shines as a study of family relationships...Shriver reveals the complex push and pull between siblings and has some wise and troubling things to say about guilt, responsibility and how what can seem like tough love is actually overindulgence. The story's arc flirts with a cheeriness that's unusual for her, but a twist ending reassures us this is indeed a Shriver novel and that our certitude is just another human foible..."(Kirkus Reviews)
Some of our discussion questions for this complex and multi-layered book include the following:
How does overeating differ from other addictions—to alcohol or to drugs? Is obesity the sign of a character failing? Why does it still seem OK to make jokes about fat people when we now frown on, say, making fun of people for being gay?
If Pandora made up the entire weight loss story, why would she end her tale with Edison gaining his weight back? Why didn’t she allow herself a happy ending? How did Edison die in Pandora’s real version of events
Pandora complains about her success and says,"Wise high-flyers kept this battle with the baffling flatness of success discreetly to themselves. Picture how bitterly hordes of the frustrated, disappointed, and dispossessed would greet any complaint about being too satisfied and too wealthy. Be that as it may, it really isn't a very nice sensation to not want anything" (28). Can you sympathize with this? Whether in success or food, why do you think Pandora finds it so frustrating not to want anything?
Please feel free to add your insights, questions, theories, etc. to this blog!