Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, May 2015
Reading Dietland is indubitably equivalent to walking a mile in the enormous shoes of our nearly thirty year old, three-hundred-four-pound narrator, Plum. I’ve never felt that I could genuinely understand a position I’ve not actually been in. Until now. This unprecedented presentation of current social issues is more than thought-provoking. It is painful and tragic, with portions that are harsh, raw, and deserving of deliberation.
Commanding characters create empathy and sympathy as they uncomfortably reveal reasons for actions. The potpourri of concerns surrounding our narrator include: Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, female vigilantes, fat-shaming, feminism and self-acceptance. Ms. Walker unapologetically strips down her characters (yes, literally…occasionally), giving the reader circumstances and background information, along with bigger picture views that beckon the most open of minds to take in just a bit more.
Plum’s story unfolds most poignantly. The reader meets Plum in present day to fully understand her lifestyle and goals. Where she is, where she thinks she will be. Why she is being stalked.
The intriguing Stalker Girl leaves a book for Plum that upon opening mentally and emotionally whisks her twelve years back in time; to when she was about the same age as the girls that write “Dear Kitty” letters to her filled with “predictable topics…boys, razors and their various uses….” Three years of providing “big sisterly” support and advice regarding matters as pressing as “why won’t he call?” and “can a girl ask a boy out?” begins to seem frivolously indulgent.
Buried in the book, Plum gradually moves away from her daily correspondence with teen girls to spending face-to-face time with grown women. Life-goals beg re-examination. Violent acts of revenge exacted by a woman known only as “Jennifer” force Plum to consider matters she’s blissfully ignored as well as creating a bit of mystery that tickled the back of this reader’s mind with possible connections to Plum’s “work world” and new and improving small, intimate “world of friends”.
My very favorite thing about Dietland is the long list of quotes I pulled. The words grabbed me while I was reading, enough to be worthy of highlight, and that is a spectacular thing; but reviewing the quotes later, out of context…..was absolutely stunning.
My crystal ball tells me that after the May 2015 release, we are going to be hearing a lot about Dietland. I believe that it will be the “something totally different and efficacious” book of 2015.
Reviewed by jv poore, April 2015.