Thursday, July 25, 2013

Big Brother; Lionel Shriver

Title: Big Brother 
Author: Lionel Shriver
Publication Year:  2013
Publisher: Harper
Edition: personal copy/eGalley
Source: Amazon Vine / Edelweiss
Date Completed: July - 2013
Rating: 4/5

Big Brother, is 46 year-old Edison Appaloosa, once a pretty hip jazz pianist who calls NYC home. Now claiming that he has some free time, he is coming to small town Iowa to visit his sister Pandora who he hasn't seen in 4 years. When his sister meets him at the airport, she literally does not recognize her own brother. He is being wheeled in an extra wide wheel chair by two flight attendants. Edison now weighs nearly 400lbs, having gained over 200lbs in the last 4 years.

Pandora cannot believe her eyes, and she is immediately thinking about what her often opinionated, exercise fanatic, husband Fletcher will say when he sees Edison. Especially since Fletcher is less than thrilled about having Edison come for a visit in the first place. On top of that their marriage is a bit strained as it is even before Edison arrives. While Pandora has a thriving career, Fletcher builds high end furniture pieces their basement. Fletcher has two teenage children that live with the couple (Pandora's step-children).

Once Edison settles in at the couple's home, it's obvious that he isn't exactly the ideal house guest. He wallows in self-pity and begins to get on Fletcher's nerves from the get-go. He also interferes in the lives of Fletcher's teenage children, has no real interests and all he wants to do is eat. He even breaks one of the chairs that Fletcher has made, making Fletcher lose patience fast with his brother-in-law, adding stress to the already strained marriage. Pandora, however, is torn, but she sees this as Edison's cry for help. His life has been compromised by his morbid obesity. Pandora convinces Edison to embark on a year long weight loss program, stating that she will be there to guide and support him all the way, even if it does mean stepping away from her marital-family in the process.

I thought Big Brother was a very good story. Yes, it certainly is a story about  our obsession with weight and in this case obesity. It makes you think about what leads some people to choose food in times of stress or even as a source of comfort. It is also, perhaps even more, a story about family and the choices we make for those we love. Is blood thicker than water? I think so, but other readers may view this differently. The ending will bug some readers I suspect, and though I was surprised, I kind of liked the way that the story played out. This certainly is a character driven novel, and while both Edison and Fletcher annoyed the hell out of me at times, at other times I also felt really sorry for Edison. In the end I was happy that I read this book.



  1. Shriver does like to make us think! I'm anxious to read this book.

  2. I'm glad you liked this one, Diane. I liked character driven novels from time to time so I'll keep this one in mind.

  3. I can't wait to read this one, its on my iPad. I'm a fan of Shriver's writing, and this topic interests me. Not sure it's been written from this perspective before.

    I'm happy to see you enjoyed it!

  4. I heard the author on the Diane Rehm show, and it was a fascinating discussion. If you're interested, you can listen here:

  5. May have to break down and read this one. I haven't had good luck with Shriver in the past, but am curious about Big Brother.

  6. Apparently I had no idea what th eplot of thtis one was. I knew it was Shriver and I wanted to read it, but what an interesting plot!

  7. Lionel Shriver is one of those writers I really want to read but just haven't gotten around to. I love stories that deal with family obligations/dynamics so this one is on my list. Great review, Diane!

  8. I've heard the ending is something else. I love how Shriver puts her own spin on things and really makes you question and re-evaluate what you thought you believed in!

  9. We Need to Talk About Kevin kept me riveted to my seat. So emotional. Thanks for sharing your thoughts about this book.

  10. I have yet to read a Shriver book, but I've been meaning too. I know all too well about finding comfort in food, unfortunately.

  11. This was my first Shriver novel and she is certainly provocative. I loved how the book made me think and keep me on my toes by causing me to switch alliances between characters.

  12. I felt sucker punched at the end. It literally took the breath out of me. But, it didn't bug me enough to not like it. It's not a book to enjoy though. So much of it was uncomfortable to read about. That entire doll business was creepy as hell!

  13. Still haven't read Shriver but this one looks interesting.


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