Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Skinny by Diana Spechler Examines Hunger and Grief

Gray Lachmann is a fabulously flawed main character whose story jumps off the page in Diana Spechler's new novel Skinny. Although some have billed it as a young adult novel, Gray herself is 27 years old. After her father dies, she spirals off the deep end, giving up everything important in her life in a quest to squelch her guilt. Because, of course, she claims to have killed him.

Gray has a successful business booking and selling tickets at comedy clubs, a career she embarked upon after meeting her long-term comedian boyfriend. She is good as what she does, and she looks every inch of successful -- thin, well-dressed. She gets her obsession with being fit and eating healthily from her mother, a woman who she claims can "eat a block of unseasoned tofu" for dinner.

These two are in direct opposition with the other member of their family -- Gray's father, who is hundreds of pounds overweight. Gray calls him a "active obese," however, as a man who still cannonballs into the swimming pool and jokes with friends at backyard barbecues. But his eating habits affect Gray and her mother in an extreme manner.

After his death, Gray goes over the deep end, eating everything in sight and gaining weight over the course of a few months. She withdraws from her boyfriend, looks into her father's private affairs, and embarks on a "fat camp" adventure as a camp counselor with an ulterior motive. Most of the story takes place at the camp, which Spechler peoples with bizarre characters who all seek some sort of miracle cure for their weight loss issues.

Things quickly seem a little off at the camp, but the entire tale spirals downward in unison with Gray's own dive into self-injurious behavior. Spechler makes important statements about grief, emotional eating, and self-esteem in Skinny. While Gray's actions seem over-the-top in some ways, I feel that Spechler successfully captured the emotional roller coaster that occurs with the loss of a parent. She also addresses eating topics from both sides -- overeating and eating disorders like bulimia.

 A (short, not boring) book trailer for Skinny:

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