Waisted by Randy Susan Meyers
Published by Atria Books, 288 pages, $26
The painful pun in the title of Boston author Randy Susan Meyers’ latest novel refers to the name of a weight-loss mansion where obese women are put through torments of food deprivation, exercise and humiliation. In Waisted, Meyers describes “training,” which is delivered by a man and some women—thin, of course.
The book centers on two customers in the weight-loss program. A makeup artist, Daphne is the daughter of a punitive weight watcher—her daughter’s weight that is. Meanwhile, Alice, half black and half Jewish, was raised with good values by parents who were sensitive to her biracial identity. Both women are married with children, all left behind with no communication during the monthlong program. But once they realize they are in a cruel prison, the two women and some others plot to escape.
Meyers touches on the many ways food lives in our psyches and in our stomachs, including self-image as well as being judged by others. The husbands’ attitudes toward their thinning wives come with a delicate texture: “Yes, I always loved you, no matter your size.” But the ambiguity of who the women are as their weight goes up and down is a problem for all. Meyers’ observant wit squiggles through the existential questions of what the fat-thin-fat pingpong means for Daphne and Alice and their families. Her characters move away from their eating obsessions and they focus outward on being better toward the world. Bidding less of an emphasis on calories, those new insights become their version of healthy eating.
From page 115: “Did you love it when you were thin?” Daphne asked.
Alice rocked as she clasped her knees.
“I loved being loved for it. And to be sickeningly honest, I adored the envious looks I got from other women. Seeing men practically drooling? Disgusting. But it made me feel powerful. Which, Jesus, is creepy. But, yeah, I loved it. I feel like the guy from that movie ‘Brokeback Mountain.’ Skinny, ‘I wish I knew how to quit you.’ ” ◆