cover image Dietland


Sarai Walker. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $26 (320p) ISBN 978-0-544-37343-3

Walker's debut novel is an exploration of how one overweight young woman faces a weight-obsessed world. Alicia Kettle, nicknamed Plum, is nearly 30, weighs more than 300 pounds, is caught in a diet/binge cycle, and attends meetings at Waist Watchers. Just when she decides weight-loss surgery will solve all her problems, she notices a young woman named Leeta stalking her. Plum's life is transformed when she receives a book from Leeta titled Adventures in Dietland—an expose of the "Baptist Weight Loss" program that Plum tried to follow (with disastrous results) as a teenager, which was developed by a woman named Eulayla Baptist. Walker successfully lampoons the diet industry through Adventures in Dietland, replete with insinuations about similar programs' intentions to make money off of desperate weight-conscious women of all sizes. But when Plum gets involved with Verena Baptist (writer of the expose and daughter of Eulayla), the book devolves into violence as feminist terrorists start wreaking havoc around the world. What could have been an insightful tale of a plus-size woman's empowerment and self-acceptance misses the mark. (May)