Sunday, September 21, 2008

Certain Girls

I read Little Earthquakes a couple of years ago and loved it, so when I saw that Jennifer Weiner (apparently pronounced "whiner" rather than "wee-ner," which doesn't seem like much of an improvement to me) had written a new book, I picked it up, only to find that it's actually a continuation of the story of Cannie Shapiro from her first book, Good in Bed, which I read ages ago. What I remember from that book is that it was about a girl who is agonized by weight issues, who has a lot of trouble grappling with her own self-esteem and who gets pregnant and has to learn to move past it. I remember I wasn't overly fond of the ending of that book, since my faulty memory supplies me with these details: She realized her weight didn't matter, and consequently figured out that she had lost a lot of weight, and met a nice guy. The End.

BUT...I did like this addition in part because it pointed out that she wasn't ever effortlessly thin again. I DIDN'T like having to read all the ways in which Cannie and her daughter have twisted ideas about fat and self-image. That was painful because it was so obvious they were hung up on unimportant things and letting these issues get in the way of living their lives--but I think that's the point, because I think a lot of women have the same kinds of issues. So I suppose therefore you could label this book, and all of Ms. Weiner's books, "relevant." And ultimately, that's what I like about them, that I think they reflect things that real women are dealing with or thinking about or feeling, although of course not all women constantly worry that they're not good enough because they think they're too fat, or whatever.

It's so complicated, because I think Ms. Weiner is a great writer. I think if you're going to call something "chick lit," then it should be this, because this is meaningful and not just full of fluff, but it's meaningful in that it relates to the particular issues women are likely to have in our culture today. But it's hard for me to read because I am NOT that woman. And I wish that women would stop feeling like we have to look a certain way before [fill in the blank]. Why don't we stop looking at ourselves as objects people look at, and start looking out in the world? BECOME THE GAZERS, AND FORGET ABOUT BEING GAZED AT, WOMEN!

Okay, off my pedestal now. Back to the book. It was decent. I was reading along, thinking that it was mediocrely good, but then I came to the end and it was a shock and it made me cry a little, so I'm not sure what to think now. I'm thinking my response says more about me and my life than about the author's technical abilities, but I do feel like warning you that it's not really a happy ending.

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