13 Ways of Look­ing at a Fat Girl - Mona Awad

The Star (St. Lucia) - - BOOK REVIEW - By Clau­dia Elei­box

The pale blue cover of this book was cer­tainly more invit­ing than the ti­tle. All I could muster for ex­pec­ta­tions was the bul­ly­ing of a fat girl by other bru­tally hon­est chil­dren. It turns out that I was par­tially right. A fat girl was be­ing tor­tured, but by her­self. Some mod­ern writ­ers seem pretty strange to me with the dark, grue­some, raw ways they re­lay their mes­sages. Mona Awad is one of those. This book is an ac­count of a life of a fat girl, be­gin­ning in her teenage years. It also be­gins much more sex­ual than any­one would ex­pect.

El­iz­a­beth lives with just her mother. Her clos­est, very pro­mis­cu­ous buddy is named Mel, and so the story be­gins with the girls try­ing to se­duce a group of men in McDon­alds. El­iz­a­beth de­scribes how she al­ways gets pulled into Mel’s crazy ideas, be­cause she never has the courage to say no. She also de­scribes the other, more in­no­cent part of their friend­ship, in­clud­ing shar­ing mu­sic and clothes. Wow, the clothes. This book has ex­cep­tional de­scrip­tions of the at­tire worn or forced on by the char­ac­ters. It con­tin­ues with a num­ber of much older men the pair en­gages with just for money, and their other im­moral in­dul­gences that the au­thor so ca­su­ally in­cludes. El­iz­a­beth’s mother makes an ef­fort to save her from the road she’s walk­ing and to make her lose weight while she’s young. It never works.

The au­thor sways to and fro with the nar­ra­tors and the reader re­ally does get a few per­spec­tives on a fat girl. From gru­el­ing cloth­ing store vis­its and dress­ing room ex­pe­ri­ences, restau­rant un­hap­pi­ness, boyfriends with fat girl fetishes, snarky com­ments from skin­nier girls and mid­night bak­ing feasts with bad mu­sic. Af­ter a few more con­cu­pis­cent en­coun­ters, col­lege years and temp jobs, El­iz­a­beth meets Tom. For some rea­son she be­lieves she needs to work on her weight for him. El­iz­a­beth starts a diet and gets smaller which makes her mother ex­tremely happy and Tom who prefers her curves, still mar­ries her. She doesn’t stop her diet and she con­tin­ues to lose more and more weight. El­iz­a­beth shares her dis­turb­ing thoughts of her­self and the toll her rigid food regime and work­out sched­ule takes on her. She’s taken to eat­ing just sal­ads or veg­eta­bles, and cre­ates sce­nar­ios in her head of the peo­ple who can eat more than her and don’t be­come fat. Tom un­de­ni­ably suf­fers as he tries to be sup­port­ive by eat­ing her strange dishes and call­ing her beau­ti­ful when her skintight dresses are never suit­able for the oc­ca­sion. El­iz­a­beth is now al­ways too moody for con­ver­sa­tions, too tired for sex and too sen­si­tive for dates and other in­ti­ma­cies of their mar­riage.

Mona Awad does a bril­liant job with her de­scrip­tions and ev­ery meal, dish and item of cloth­ing jumps right off the page. Al­though the story switches nar­ra­tors and abruptly ar­rives in new set­tings, it is easy to con­nect to the frus­tra­tions and in­de­cent ac­tiv­i­ties in each way of look­ing at a fat girl. This is cer­tainly not a book for chil­dren or some­one who will be eas­ily dis­turbed by the vice. It is surely an unortho­dox, un­usual novel.

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