“Big Brother” by Lionel Shriver

The author of “We need to talk about Kevin“, whose own brother died from obesity-related causes,tells here the fictional story of just what happens when Pandora’s big brother, Edison,visits after a few years absence – with a weight gain of 200lbs+.

Big Brother creates discomfort as it challenges assumptions on how you might deal with a suddenly very,very Big brother.

In her review in The Guardian newspaper Julie Meyerson(another terrific writer) comments:

“Into a  faintly precarious family dynamic comes older brother Edison, a once hip and sexy jazz musician who, to Pandora’s “dizzying sorrow” (especially when she fails to recognise him at the airport) now weighs in at 386lb…
But as his visit gradually extends… a dismayed Pandora watches him eat his way through almost everything in sight…How far can you and should you intervene?”

 Pandora decides to leave and sets up another home nearby where she can lose her extra pounds and keep Edison on a strictly controlled diet. Controlled mostly by his younger sister.

Meyerson comments:

“Her husband tells Pandora” You’re moving in with your brother, so you can read each other the nutritional label on the cottage cheese.”
Still, what follows is one of the most suspenseful and engaging accounts of a diet that I can imagine reading. But then again, this is a novel about so much more than weight-watching… With honesty, precision and humour, she conveys all the boredom and exhilaration of weight loss, along with its tendency to threaten the people around you.”

This story of Edison highlights weight discrimination, health bias, obesity and dieting – and our own personal prejudices.

Chris Sosa, interviewing  Shriver in The Huffington Post writes:

“Big Brother is a sobering look at obesity and its effect on relationships.
All of Shriver’s books show a strong command of language, and tackling obesity in her signature style has raised a few eyebrows. But she takes it in stride, “I had my head taken off by some emailer for using the word ‘fat.’ This whole linguistic solution to social problems, I don’t buy. It doesn’t resolve the prejudice.”
…after I mentioned that the book wasn’t “fat-shaming” at all, she jumped in: “I hate that expression. It’s apparently become quite fashionable.”

A big question to leave you with – Is Edison the same person as he was before his weight gain? Or isn’t he?


PS. The ending is a bit of shocker. Don’t say I didn’t warn you…


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