Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Shriver's Newest Compelling, Though Heavy (Pun Intended) and Generally, Just A Big, Ole Downer

(Image from Barnes & Noble)


Pandora Halfdanarson will do anything for the older brother she's always adored.  So, when Edison needs a temporary place to live, she agrees to take him in without a moment's hesitation.  Her husband is not enthusiastic about the idea, however.  Fletcher thinks his brother-in-law is an insufferable blowhard.  But Pandora insists: Edison is family.  He needs her.  She'll do whatever she can to help.

When Edison lumbers off the plane in Cedar Rapids, Pandora gets the biggest shock of her life.  Her brother's always been svelte—a hip, handsome Jazz pianist with plenty of adoring females at his side.  In the four years since Pandora last saw him, Edison's transformed himself into someone completely—literally—unrecognizable.  He used to be trim, now he weighs just under 400 lbs.  The obese 43-year-old suffers from depression, pre-diabetes and a severe case of denial.  Clearly, Edison Apaloosa needs more than just a soft place to land.  The question is:  Can Pandora give her brother the help and support he so desperately requires?  And, what will it cost her, not just financially, but emotionally as well?  

Pandora's marriage is already floundering, due in part to the fact that Fletcher's custom carpentry business isn't making any money, while Pandora's pull-string doll company is flourishing.  Does she dare alienate her husband even more by siding with Edison?  As Edison's domineering personality slowly begins to take over Pandora's life, she must decide how much she's willing to risk in order to aid her brother.  Can she save him from himself, even if it means sacrificing everything she has?  Because, as is becoming clearer and clearer, that's what it's going to take.

Obesity seems to be a trendy topic in fiction lately.  It's easy to see why—it's a heavy subject (pun intended), a life-and-death struggle with plenty of inherent conflict and drama.  In Big Brother, Lionel Shriver's newest novel, the author gives us a raw, unsettling taste of what dealing with a loved one's obesity can feel like.  It's a powerful story—though a depressing one—about the lengths we go to to help struggling family members, even when it comes at great personal cost to us.  Shriver writes with sharp, piercing honesty, making Big Brother a compelling, compulsively readable story, though a difficult one.  I found it engrossing, even if none of the characters came off as particularly likable.  The ending, however, soured me on the whole thing.  Without being too spoiler-y (I hope), let me just say that unreliable narrators almost always kill a story for me.  Considering that and the novel's generally downer tone, Big Brother turned out to be just an okay read.     
(Readalikes:  Reminds me of Butter by Erin Jade Lange and Fat Girl by Judith Moore)

Grade:  

If this were a movie, it would be rated: 

  for strong language, depictions of illegal drug use, intense situations and sexual innuendo/content

To the FTC, with love:  I received an ARC of Big Brother from the generous folks at Harper Collins via those at TLC Book Tours.  Thank you!

5 comments:

  1. I'm a little disappointed that you found this a little disappointing. However, I have heard the Shriver set herself a very high bar with We Need to Talk About Kevin (one of my favourite books) and her other stuff isn't as good.

    Sarah

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    Replies
    1. Interesting. This is my first Shriver book and I liked her writing enough to try another one. I've heard good things about WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN - I'll have to give it a try!

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  2. Hmmm, I think this one might be a little too heavy on the drama for me. I've never read a Shriver book before. Maybe I should one day. I've heard lots of good things about, We Need to Talk About Kevin.

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  3. You described exactly the way I feel about Shriver's writing. I haven't read this one so can't comment on the story itself, but man, her writing and stories really stick with me!

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    ReplyDelete

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