“Three Fat Singletons” by J.M. Bartholomew

“Chick lit” (oh, how I hate that phrase! But use it I must, for it defines the genre so well) that is also “Brit lit,” but with the twist that the three main characters are, as promised in the title, fat. And not just a little bit fat: Dotty, the heaviest of the three, can’t reach her feet or fit into an airplane seat. Unlike many of their sister chick lit heroines, these women’s worries about their weight is not mere vanity and insecurity, but a justified concern about a problem that is seriously impacting their lives.

There are the usual shenanigans you’d expect in a story like this: excessive drinking, unwise and hasty choices of whom to take to bed, difficult relationships with parents, and a total lack of satisfying relationships with men. The problems are no less real for having appeared in other novels previously, and the single thirty-and-above crowd will find plenty to empathize with, although some American readers in particular might be taken aback by the drinking and casual sex. This is not a book for prudes or the excessively squeamish (all the characters get violently sick, among other things), although if you can handle “Sex in the City,” you can probably handle this just fine.

Where the book really shines is in the depiction of the three women’s problems with eating and weight. We see how they snack compulsively, their consumption of food, money, alcohol, and men fueled by an out-of-control desperation that they can barely manage to admit even to themselves. If this sounds off-putting, it’s generally not: the issue is handled with humor and a light touch. But we also see just how embarrassed they are by their constant struggles to live in a world made for thin people, as they have to shop in special stores, scout out chairs that won’t collapse under them when they sit down, maneuver through spaces that are too small for them, and deal with the constant stares and negative attention. Again, this could be depressing, but it’s shown here with warmth and empathy. By the end of the story, the three women haven’t yet turned their lives around, but we’re given hope that they could, and the book ends on an upbeat promise. All in all, a fun read that deals with serious issues that many women face.

My thanks to the publisher for providing an ARC of this book. All opinions are my own.

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