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Niagara on the Lake, Ontario, Canada
My virtue is that I say what I think, my vice that what I think doesn't amount to much.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Big Brother

Lionel Shriver does not back off difficult topical issues. In fact they have become her bread and butter:“So Much for That” was a scathing indictment of the U.S. health care system,  “We Need to Talk About Kevin”talks about parenthood in the shadow of a Columbinesque school massacre. Her latest novel is “Big Brother” and it takes on a weighty issue. Middle-aged, somewhat overweight Pandora is married to Fletcher, a fitness obsessed food nazi. Their family also includes Fletcher's two children from a previous failed marriage. Edison, Pandora's older, hipper jazz pianist brother arrives unexpectedly and disruption, discord and marital strain ensue. The brother Pandora thought she knew is now morbidly obese. Pandora wants to help but, in the face of Fletcher's obvious distaste for Edison, she finds herself colluding with her brother's unhealthy eating. So Pandora concocts a plan: she and Edison will move out together and she will act as his coach, overseeing his diet and exercise. At the end of a year of adherence to the plan Edison will be back to a normal healthy weight. Fletcher issues an ultimatum: "It's Edison or me." She becomes her brother's keeper and boot camp begins.
The only likeable character is Cody, Pandora's adopted daughter, who tries her best to keep the peace.
I know Shriver's brother died of obesity and that this informed the novel but her descriptions of Edison gorging seemed over-the-top.  Like her other novels Big Brother is engaging and thought provoking but it has a trick ending that left me with a sour taste. Despite the unsatisfactory ending I recommend it.

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