cover image The Dieter

The Dieter

Susan Sussman. Pocket Books, $16.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-671-66124-3

Latching onto the timely subject of marathon diets, Sussman's clever, lighthearted novel chronicles Barbara Aver's increasing avoirdupois. Immediately after her best friend dies of lung cancer, Barbara decides to give up a two-pack-a-day habit. Adding to her stress, her marriage is faltering (her husband is a politician running for re-election) and relations with her teenage children are going downhill fast. Moreover, she begins to suffer from writer's block, jeopardizing her career as a syndicated advice columnist. Food, and lots of it, seems to be the solution, but even while breaking every eating taboo, Barbara is also hell-bent on a serious course of dieting, running the gamut from Weight Watcher's to popping diet pillsan odyssey that the author captures brilliantly and with uncanny insight. Despite Barbara's hefty proportions (chapter titles begin at ``February, 115'' and, at one point, reach ``August, 175-190''), she meets a smart and tough newspaper reporter who not only desires her but also helps her sort out her life. Literary Guild and Doubleday Book Clubs alternates; major ad/promo. (Feb.)