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Friday, December 12, 2008

The Bigger the Better?

Quick Review of
Fat Woman
by Leon Rooke

One of the biggies of Canadian Literature, Leon Rooke; since I'd never read him I just wrapped my arms around Fat Woman, a slim novel. This is a simple story, a woman has put on too much weight, her wedding ring is turning her finger purple and her arm is swelling. Her husband may or may not be in the process of getting fired from his job. She refused to see a doctor. At the beginning the husband is seen nailing up the bedroom window, at the end it is clear he means to lock her in to force a weight loss. It's a plot that probably won't make Oprah's list for more than one reason. The simplicty of the writing is wonderful. It's straightforward, spinning out of a literal her and now only a few times (which I appreciate but I know many people do not). Mostly it's grit-slang peppered with wonderful similes. We follow the Ella Mae throughout one day and as each small event happens her mind spins into stories about her past and her childhood. It's the story of Jack Sprat and his wife when Jack gets sick of her obesity. Or better, it's the white trash version of Mrs. Dalloway, which to think of it this way is quite humorous. Ella Mae swings thorugh moods as fast as she crams cookies into her mouth, justifying, lamenting, hoping, caterwauling, and generally trying to make things work. For a first novel this is pretty impressive. It may not be particularly deep but it's highly collequial and tons of fun. Try it: nothing ventured nothing gained.