Judith Moore's breathtakingly frank memoir, Fat Girl
, is not for the faint of heart. It packs more emotional punch in its slight 196 pages than any doorstopper confessional. But the author warns us in her introduction of what's to come, and she consistently delivers. "Narrators of first-person claptrap like this often greet the reader at the door with moist hugs and complaisant kisses," Moore advises us bluntly. "I won't. I will not endear myself. I won't put on airs. I am not that pleasant. The older I get the less pleasant I am. I mistrust real-life stories that conclude on a triumphant note.... This is a story about an unhappy fat girl who became a fat woman who was happy and unhappy." With that, Moore unflinchingly leads us backward into a heartbreaking childhood marked by obesity, parental abuse, sexual assault, and the expected schoolyard bullying. What makes Fat Girl
especially harrowing, though, is Moore's obvious self-loathing and her eagerness to share it with us. "I have been taking a hard look at myself in the dressing room's three-way mirror. Who am I kidding? My curly hair forms a corona around my round scarlet face, from the chin of which fat has begun to droop. My swollen feet in their black Mary Janes show from beneath the bottom hem of the ridiculous swaying skirt. The dressing room smells of my beefy stench. I should cry but I don't. I am used to this. I am inured." Moore's audaciousness in describing her apparently awful self ensures that her reader is never hardened to the horrors of food obsession and obesity. And while it is at times excruciatingly difficult bearing witness to Moore's merciless self-portraits, the reader cannot help but be floored by her candor. With Fat Girl
, Moore has raised the stakes for autobiography while reminding us that our often thoughtless appraisals of others based on appearances can inflict genuine harm. It's a painful lesson well worth remembering. --Kim Hughes
From Publishers Weekly
In her memoir of growing up fat, Moore, who previously wrote about food in Never Eat Your Heart Out
, employs her edgy, refreshingly candid voice to tell the story of a little girl who weighed 112 pounds in second grade; whose father abandoned her to a raging, wicked mother straight out of the Brothers Grimm; whose lifelong dieting endeavors failed as miserably as her childhood attempts to find love at home. As relentless as this catalogue of beatings, humiliation and self-loathing can be, it's tolerable—even inspiring in places—because Moore pulls it off without a glimmer of self-pity. The book does have some high points, especially while Moore is stashed at the home of a kind uncle who harbors his own secrets, but the happiest moments are tinged with dread. Who can help wondering what will become of this tortured and miserable child? Alas, Moore cuts her story short after briefly touching on an unsatisfying reunion with her father and her two failed marriages. The ending feels hurried, but perhaps the publication of this book will give Moore's story the happy ending she deserves.
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