In Such a Pretty Face, the protagonist is 30-something, Stevie Barrett. Stevie is a heart attack survivor. Just (2) years earlier, Stevie weighed over 300 lbs, but the new Stevie has lost 170 lbs. Weight loss surgery has given Stevie a new life -- well almost. You see Stevie, like most morbidly obese people had deep rooted, personal issues that caused her to eat, and eat and eat. Food was her friend and helped comfort her from the bad memories. At least temporarily, the food eased her emotional pain.
For Stevie it was an early childhood spent with her schizophrenic mother Helen. Helen graduated from an Ivy League College on a full scholarship, was musically gifted, and performed on stage in New York City for four years, until one day she stripped on stage, and appeared to have suffered a total nervous breakdown. When Stevie was little, Helen became pregnant once again, and was sure, an alien had invaded her body. She wanted the baby out, and poor little Stevie, alone with her mentally ill mother, were there together when the birth occurred at home. Stevie named the her baby sister Sunshine, but Helen was sure the baby was evil and referred to it as Trash Heap.
"Helen continued to hold out her left hand in a weird way and told us it didn't belong to her. "Get this off. It isn't mine,"
"I said, "Okay Helen, I'll take it off for you after school, but I have to find a hand screwdriver."
"Do you see how I had to buy her sanity at times, how I had to talk to her, manage her ?"
" That afternoon I ate three cupcakes and tried to calm the nervousness that stalked the better part of my childhood on the farm......
"I knew something bad was going to happen."..............
"It is not normal for children to see their mothers covered with blood. These images stay with you, burned and red and jagged, pricking at your innocence like a butcher knife against you skin".As an adult Stevie works as a legal assistant. She has a friend Eileen, who is jealous of the thin Stevie, and instead of being happy for her friend, tells her she "cheated", losing weight the way she did. Stevie is attracted to her neighbor, but she finds her shyness makes it tough to act on these feelings. Despite her weight loss, she is still insecure and haunted by her past. Stevie takes some big steps in changing her life and her image. She decides to plant a garden for all of the changes that have taken place in her life. She becomes obsessed with chairs, (but you'll have to read the book to find out why), and she longs to quit her job as a legal assistant, to become an artist.
MY THOUGHTS - I liked this (450+ pages) novel a lot. The story is touching, and I suspect most readers will feel sad about Stevie's early life. The novel delves deep into Stevie's painful childhood, and the loss of people she loved, all within a short period of time. The story covers serious issues: eating disorders, mental illness and self esteem issues. Sad at times, but poignant and funny at others, I really did enjoy this novel. I think story would have been just as good if the story focused totally on Stevie and her family, as some of the other story lines: her job, planning an anniversary party with her cousins etc., seemed a bit under developed and unnecessary. Despite this, I would not hesitate to RECOMMEND this book.
Rating - 4.5/5 stars