The Horror Honeys: Hardcover Honey's Haunted Bookclub ~ 'Dietland'

Hardcover Honey's Haunted Bookclub ~ 'Dietland'

Hardcover Honey's Book of the Week with Jocelyn

Dietland by Sarai Walker

While on a recent road trip, I tore through half of Dietland and when we arrived at our destination, I pulled it from my bag and glared at anyone who came near me as I buried myself in it and finished it the next day. A totally unique book with one of the best covers I’ve seen in years, Dietland will be a hit with anybody who loves the Horror Honeys (which SHOULD be everybody, right?)

Our heroine is Plum Kettle, who weighs in at over 300 pounds and thinks of little other than losing weight. Plum has a job working for a girl’s magazine (think Seventeen) where she answers questions sent to “Dear Kitty,” the advice columnist. Plum can’t help but notice how many of the letters from these plaintive teen girls carry the same questions over and over and over (Does he like me? How can I make him like me? Should I lose weight? How can I lose weight? I have been cutting myself. I have been having sex. Should I keep having sex? Should I keep throwing up? Why is my friend such a bitch? Why am I such a slut? My stepbrother is touching me and my mom doesn’t believe me, what do I do? Are my boobs weird?) and on and on. 

Plum writes her answers at a local coffee shop and never goes into the office. She catalogs everything she eats and religiously attends meetings at Waist Watchers, while she waits for her existing gastric bypass surgery date to arrive. Plum notices a mysterious girl in colorful tights who appears to be following her, showing up at the coffee shop, in the grocery store, on the street, etc. When the girl appears during a visit to the office, she leaves Plum a book entitled Adventures in Dietland by one Verena Baptist.  

We delve into Plum’s backstory, including an early and lengthy membership in the Baptist Weight Loss program, led by Eulayla Baptist and adhered to by millions of light-headed devotees. There are internal redacted memos here that had me shaking my head in recognition of evil corporate speak and will do the same to you. When Eulayla Baptist is killed in a fiery car accident, her daughter Verena inherits and subsequently shuts down the entire organization, leaving these women not just hungry but angry too at the loss of their weight-loss savior. Verena withstands personal attacks and death threats, but carries on with a sort of women’s collective in NYC.

Author Sarai Walker
When Plum visits the office again to sign an insurance form, she is funneled down to the “Beauty Closet,” where she meets the chilly and beautiful Julia, who she learns sent the mysterious colorful tights girl (Leeta, as it turns out) to follow her. Julia indicates that she wanted to see if Plum would be “friendly to our cause." Julia asks for the e-mail addresses of anyone who has ever written to “Dear Kitty” – and here the book shifts into a higher gear, as we get our first new-font interlude, detailing two men who have committed horrific violence against women and who are placed in bags and dropped, alive, onto a highway in California, results predictably being they are smashed to a pulp. This is the first of our “Jennifer” chapters, as we start to see incredible actions taken credit for by “Jennifer” – including an amazing chapter on the riddance of the “Page 3” nude girls in the Daily Sun and the images that replace them. As Plum meets Verena and her group, and as the Jennifer actions intensify to the point of a full-blown manhunt (well, woman hunt, really), the two stories must inevitably intersect. 

Dietland has been described as "Fight Club for women” and in fact, Walker even cites the book as an inspiration in her acknowledgements. And I saw lots of Fight Club in Dietland, to be sure, with interspersing chapters, interesting character names, secrets, a room that has screens showing only porn, 24/7 (just read the book!), and the repetitive phrases that Chuck Palahniuk is also fond of. But calling it “Fight Club for women” is somewhat diminishing to me, especially given the strong messages of the book about fighting for women in what’s already a man’s world.  

I said this already on Twitter, but to me, it was more reminiscent of a book I have read several times, The Lives and Loves of a She-Devil by Fay Weldon. Before it was a terrible movie starring Roseanne Barr and Meryl Streep (yes, really), it was a sharp, well-observed page turner about another overweight woman grabbing for her happily-ever-after with both hands despite anyone who gets in her way. In that book, the heroine does in fact lose weight. I am pleased to report in Dietland that Plum Kettle turns into exactly who she’s supposed to be without that. So it seems we HAVE made some progress after all. I can’t wait to see what Sarai Walker writes next. Dietland is one I will be thinking about and recommending for some time.  READ. IT.

Hardcover Honey Verdict: 5 out of 5 Jennifers for this one, a generic name for an anything-but-generic book.

Have YOU read Dietland?
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