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Dietland Hardcover – May 26, 2015
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An Amazon Best Book of May 2015: Warning: this debut novel from a onetime writer for Seventeen and Mademoiselle is not what it might at first seem to be: a funny send-up of the beauty industry and the media that support it. Well, ok, it is that, at least for the first 50 pages or so, but it soon becomes one of the more intelligent, and not a little subversive, depictions of women in our society. Oh, drat: that makes it sound brainy and Feminism 101-y, which is not right, either. So... trying again. Read Dietland, the tale of a young, overweight woman who hides behind a skinny-girl persona to write an advice column for a women’s magazine – and is soon drawn into an underground community of women who forthrightly and fabulously reject that culture. Read it not only because it’s smart and timely (and shocking: it explicitly takes on the adult film culture as well), but because it’s heartbreaking and tragic and very very comic (as long as you like your laughs dark) and because it will guarantee that you never look at a lipstick or a pair of stilettos or a bathroom scale the same way again. Sarai Walker is some kind of twisted sister. And of course I mean that as the highest possible compliment. – Sara Nelson
One of Entertainment Weekly's "10 Best Books of 2015"
One of Bustle's "2015’s 25 Best Books, Fiction Edition"
A New York Post “Best Novel to Read This Summer”
An Us Weekly “Hot Summer Novel”
O, The Oprah Magazine, "10 Titles to Pick Up Now"
A USA Today “New and Noteworthy” Book
One of Vulture's "8 Books You Need to Read This May"
A Kirkus "Best Fiction of 2015" Title
One of BookPage's "Best Books of 2015"
One of Kobo.com's "Must Read Fiction Debuts of 2015"
A LitReactor Staff Pick: The Best Books of 2015
One of New York Daily News's "10 Books for Your Summer Reading List"
Women's National Book Association, "Great Group Reads 2015"
An Indie Next Pick
“Dietland completely blew me away. It's audacious and gutsy and heartbreaking and I want to grab women on the street and shake them until they promise to read it—and also buy copies for their daughters.” —Jennifer Weiner, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Good In Bed, In Her Shoes, and others
“Walker’s first novel leaves chick lit in the pixie dust, treading the rougher terrain of radical critique and shadowy conspiracies — territory closer to Rachel Kushner than Helen Fielding.”—New York Magazine, One of Vulture's "8 Books You Need to Read This May"
"If Amy Schumer turned her subversive feminist sketches into a novel, dark on the inside but coated with a glossy, palatable sheen, it would probably look a lot like Dietland—a thrilling, incendiary manifesto disguised as a beach read...It’s a giddy revenge fantasy that will shake up your thinking and burrow under your skin, no matter its size."—Entertainment Weekly (Grade: A)
“I've never dropped anyone out of a helicopter. But Dietland resonated with the part of me that wants, just once, to deck a street harasser. At the very least, I wish an incurable itch upon everyone who has catcalled me on the street. I wish food poisoning and public embarrassment on everyone I've heard make a rape joke. I wish toothache and headlice and too-small shoes upon every stranger who has told me to smile. Which is to say, sometimes I forget I'm angry, but I am. Dietland is a complicated, thoughtful, and powerful expression of that same anger.”—Annalisa Quinn, NPR.org
“Plum Kettle, a ghostwriter for a popular teen mag, is lured into a subversive sisterhood in this riotous first novel. Finally, the feminist murder mystery/makeover story we’ve been waiting for.”—O, The Oprah Magazine, One of "10 Titles to Pick Up Now"
"A delightful, page-turning thriller that's also a feminist revenge fantasy. I tore through it in about two days—it is amazingly accessible while still being whip-smart, and it deals with timely issues without feeling like a lame Law & Order 'ripped from the headlines' stunt."——Jessica Grose, Lenny Letter
"[Ms. Walker's] writing can spit with venom, at the rigid expectations of women’s weight and sexuality...As a social commentary, Dietland is no shrill tirade. Ms. Walker captures the misery of failing to fit in, to fit into the right clothes, to fit in with the right people and their expectations."—The Economist"At 300 lbs., Plum Kettle lives for the days when gastric bypass will help her shed her extra girth—until she's challenged to shed her misery instead. Witty and wise."—People
"Extraordinary…Walker skewers the diet industry and many other realities of the misogynistic world we live in...The world needed this novel; it’s a breath of fresh air to feminist literature with a nod to dystopian lit but a lot of contemporary flair… altogether different, fiercely political yet stylistically unique and readable...It’s a very well-rounded, emotionally rich tale… Plum is a character who will stay with me, and that’s no small thing.”—Charlotte Hammond and Trilby Beresford, Amy Poehler's Smart Girls
"The anti-beach read, this spiky, funny book skewers the beauty industry and the first world's weight-loss obsession. The story revolves around constantly hungry ghostwriter Plum, who gets involved in an underground feminist group that challenges her world view. It's wonderfully unapologetic, off-beat and a lot of fun."—Elle UK
“Sarai Walker deftly marries body insecurities and humor in her satirical debut. At 300 pounds, Plum declares a diet fail and concedes to weight-loss surgery. But when she meets a radical feminist, she begins to try on confidence for size.”—US Weekly
"Fight Club meets Margaret Atwood in this absorbing thriller that weighs the expectations of society against one's own self-worth."—Bustle, "2015’s 25 Best Books, Fiction Edition"
“An incredibly smart novel that will make you think about the society we live in and how desperately we women want to be thinner, to be smaller, to disappear.”—PopSugar
"The biggest flaw I see in Dietland is that the people who most need to read it never will."—Karen Sandstrom, Cleveland.com
“[Dietland’s] message resonates…It’s vanishingly rare to see a novel that looks like the much-maligned ‘chick lit’ – and sometimes reads like it – so gleefully censorious of rape culture… If you’ve lived in this culture – if you’ve ever been a young woman who is trying to eat so little or eat so much that she disappears…you may take some cold comfort from Dietland, and its opportunities for vicarious revenge.”—The Guardian
"In this slyly subversive feminist novel, 300-pound Plum plans to get her stomach stapled until a mysterious group of women convinces her otherwise — just as a militant, anonymous band of vigilantes called “Jennifer” begins wreaking havoc on bad men — dropping rapists from planes, blackmailing CEOs of exploitative newspapers — and inspiring regular ladies to do the same. Word of warning: While you may be inclined to try this at home, it’s probably better left in Walker’s competent hands and on her incendiary pages for now." —Entertainment Weekly, "10 Best Books of 2015"
"A tale teeming with both sarcasm and honesty...Dietland transports readers to the front lines of the diet wars—a place where body positivity and a gratifying read are guaranteed."—BUST
"Read [Dietland] not only because it’s smart and timely, but because it’s heartbreaking and tragic and very very comic (as long as you like your laughs dark) and because it will guarantee that you never look at a lipstick or a pair of stilettos or a bathroom scale the same way again. Sarai Walker is some kind of twisted sister. And of course I mean that as the highest possible compliment."—Sara Nelson, Amazon Editors' Top Picks for the Best Books of May
"This funny, painful coming-of-age story follows Plum Kettle, a woman set on changing her appearance and releasing the 'thin' woman that lives inside of her. Through Plum, Walker takes down the diet industry, writes honestly about gender equality, explores society’s obsession with thinness, and stresses the importance of surrounding yourself with a supportive and smart network of women."—Real Simple
"Just in time for the season where many feel shamed for their lack of a 'bikini body,' this new release explores a woman’s journey to accept that she’s fat. But it’s not just about feel-good self-love; Dietland develops into a full-fledged feminist manifesto."—New York Daily News, "10 Books for Your Summer Reading List"
"Dietland is a savvy rejig of Fight Club...only this time it’s the women who are fighting...We're as mad as Hell and we're not going to take it anymore. It could be that Dietland is saying that the days of women trying to fit in are over."—LitReactor.com
"Deft, witty...The cover might look like a breezy beach read, but this is anti-chick-lit for smart chicks."—A.V. Club
"As a registered dietitian, Aaron Flores had read plenty of self-help books on weight control and dieting. But Dietland -- a novel that follows a woman's weight struggles through a feminist lens -- was different. 'I've already been working to change the way both me and my clients see their bodies within this society that emphasizes the "thin ideal,"' says Flores, who lives in West Hills, California, 'but this book has helped me bring more feminist ideas into my work, which I've found resonates deeply with my clients.' He recommends the book to anyone 'who wants to understand why I think we all need to say 'no' to diet culture forever,' he says."—US News
"Sarai Walker, author of Dietland, is a true disruptor. Her devastatingly funny debut – a brutal, artful satire about feminism, food and ultraviolence – is set to change the way we live, from the moment we wake up in the morning and look in the bathroom mirror."—The Pool
“Kick-ass...Dietland is a full-on woman power revenge fantasy that will make you think and make you feel better about who you are right now—not two sizes, a new job, or 20 pounds from now...If you’re looking for a summer beach read that's a wild ride, but also has the potential leave you and the world a little bit better off than you were before you read it.”—The Greatist
"A revenge fantasy about misogyny...Dietland forces readers—yes, even 'woke' ones—to confront their internal biases about the female body, and it’s not afraid to be angry about it.”—Fem Lit Magazine
"What opens as a beach read evolves into a tart, electrifying revenge tale."—Mail on Sunday (UK)
"A smart, sassy and provocative read that I thoroughly enjoyed."—Woman and Home (UK)
"A middle finger to the objectification of women…whenever I started to feel too reflective or sad, Walker revealed a plot twist that made me throw my head back and belly laugh, or inhale deeply in shock. Written with self-deprecatory wit that reminded me of Lena Dunham’s style of humour, this modern makeover story is super-smart, forward-thinking and honest. I’m reading it again immediately."—Essentials (UK)
"This novel is like a roller coaster. Before you know it, you’re racing through an edgy and exciting mix of mystery, crime, and social critique of gender and beauty standards at breakneck speed. Vivid characters and sometimes surprising acts of violence make the story pop." —Library Journal, starred
“Through her protagonist, debut novelist Walker gives a plaintive yet powerful voice to anyone who has struggled with body image, feelings of marginalization, and sexual manipulation. Her robust satire also vibrantly redefines what it means to be a woman in contemporary society.” —Booklist
"In a confident, daring first novel, Sarai Walker mixes satire and mystery as she holds a magnifying glass over Western culture's objectification of the female gender. The result is combustion of enormously entertaining and thought-provoking proportion...Walker's brazen approach to Dietland carries a strength that will ignite readers' passionate responses. The novel is unflinchingly blunt, depicting raw emotion and uncomfortable realities. Walker writes beautifully, with natural dialogue and powerful characters. Her first-rate entrance into fiction is sure to spark the conversation she--and Plum--feel their audience needs to have."—Shelf Awareness
"Sarai Walker has written a call to arms. Devious, subversive, delightful, Dietland is a SCUM Manifesto set to a pop music beat and Plum Kettle is a feminist hero for the modern age.”—Alice Sebold, author of The Lovely Bones
"Sarai Walker's groundbreaking new novel, Dietland, drew me in immediately. Follow the twists and turns as heroine Plum Kettle confronts the truth about her life and her fantasy of becoming thin. This is the stuff that is transformative for the individual, inspiring self-love and improved self-care. This is also the stuff revolutions are made of."—LINDA BACON, Ph.D., author of Body Respect and Health at Every Size
"Sarai Walker's audacious, hilarious-yet surprisingly touching-novel begins by spoofing the weightloss industry and moves on to a devastating fantasy in which an avenger known as 'Jennifer' targets men who prey on women. Through it all marches Plum, a fat woman who learns to love herself as she is, and whom I loved at all stages of her education. Keenly intelligent, daring, and original, Dietland has something important to say to us all."—Alice Mattison, author of When We Argued All Night and The Book Borrower
"The first rule of Dietland is you should definitely talk about Dietland. And I suspect you’ll want to. Gather your book clubs, gather all the Jennifers you know! At first you’ll think you’re reading a familiar story: a woman who works at a women’s magazine tries to lose weight. And then POW! Dietland lithely moves in ways and to places you won’t expect. Sarai Walker has a wonderfully curious mind, and this is an impressive, ambitious first novel.”—Gabrielle Zevin, bestselling author of The Storied Life of AJ Fikry
"Dietland is a book I have been waiting for someone to write all my life, and it hit me hard right where I live, right where so many of us have wasted too much time living. It's courageous, compassionate, intelligent, pissed off and much more fun than it has any right to be. I can think of twenty people I want to buy it for,
without even trying." —Pam Houston, author of Contents May Have Shifted
"Sarai Walker is an immensely talented writer and her debut novel, Dietland—filled with wit, wisdom and wonder—is a pleasure." —Jill McCorkle, author of Life After Life
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Top customer reviews
I couldn’t help but hope against hope that Plum would discover food addiction before the book ended. Alas, this was not to be. I wanted the release from cravings for her. I hope Ms. Walker will tackle the abuse of women by the food industry in a future work. I look forward to the next book.
As a caveat to food addicts, there are brief evocative descriptions of addictive foods in the book.
Told mainly through the lens of its 300-pound main character, Plum, this is a book that makes you cringe at the way society tends to treat people who don't fall within an "acceptable"--whatever that means--body type.
However, the book is more than that as the narrative is framed as a deep, deep deconstruction of what drives the kind of discrimination and cruelty Plum faces. It's an exploration of themes of acceptability that encourage women to subvert their feelings and subject themselves to extreme dietary and beauty methods in order to fit into the narrow (quite literally) role society defines for them. The book is a pretty disturbing meditation on the ways women are encouraged to strive for a "best self" that has little to do with a woman's own happiness or interests in life.
This aspect of the book in particular left me unsettled. It's as if Plum isn't a person, but a project. Rather than engaging with and living her life, she's put it on hold until a future version of herself can start living it. After being bombarded with messages both implicit and explicit, it's easy to see why she lives in the kind of stasis she does, and it's a state I think many women can probably relate to. It's sadly common for women to think things like "when I'm ten pounds thinner, I'll...", begging the question of what they'll do in the interim. Why do women often do this? Why not go out and live the life we have while we have it to live?
I thought Plum herself was a good embodiment of the utter frustration, confusion, and outright pain of being a woman. This book tackles a lot--weight, beauty standards, porn, rape--precisely because women are bombarded with all of these things, often on a daily basis. In a startling scene, one character discusses this and then asks whether it could be considered a form of terrorism. I think there's something to that point.
I could not put this book down, but I gave it four stars instead of five because I was uncomfortable with the violence, even though I suspect that's part of the point. After all, we live in a world where violence is disproportionately visited on women, and we're making very slow progress with changing that sad fact.
Plum Kettle has tried it all since she was sixteen. Waist Watchers. A famous diet of frozen meals and pills supplemented with meetings of evangelical proportion, called the Baptist Plan after founder Euylayla Baptist. Nothing has worked. Now pushing thirty, Plum is awaiting bariatric surgery. She's apprehensive, but after a life of dieting, willing to take the risk. Plum works from home answering emails for a 'tween beauty magazine Daisy Chain, spending hours a day responding to girls' questions about cutting, small breasts, creepy stepbrothers, and more. When editor Kitty Montgomery calls her into the office one morning, Plum falls into a rabbit hole of revolutionary feminists whose goal is to bring the system down. Some of the revolutionaries are social justice workers with a positive, albeit radical, outlook--and others, not so much. (Which is where the kidnapping, murder, and dismembering--usually with the emphasis on "member"--of those men comes into play.)
Plum's first awakening is to let go of her obsession with food--instigated by an offer of $20,000 if she follows a transformative "diet" plan suggested by Verena Baptist, daughter of the late weight loss guru. Plum finds community at a women's cooperative. She sleeps (and eats) a lot. She develops a fashion style. Plum, like so many women who finally come to terms with their bodies, recognizes she needs to change from the inside out.
Walker alternates the stories of the characters' present with their past--and we discover that even the women who resort to violence are driven by our culture's misogynist response to them. Dietland is a difficult book to read in many ways--one that tells the truth, but tells is slant, as Miss Emily Dickinson would say.
Again, it's SATIRE people, and not for everybody. I found it thought provoking and really fun and funny. Some of the images and ideas are broad and disturbing, but it was revenge fantasy and in my opinion, brilliant social commentary. It would be a great choice for a book club!