Friday, June 04, 2010

Book Review: Fat Cat by Robin Brande

Book: Fat Cat
Author: Robin Brande
Published: 2009
Source: Purchased

Who I Told I’d Read It: the author, when I bought it at a book signing
Time: 1:51:14

Cat knows the Special Topics in Research Science class is going to be a killer. This is the class where students have to make up a year-long research project based on a picture from a magazine, after all. She's desperately hoping for something in her area of expertise--bugs--but instead she gets a picture of cavemen.

Scrambling for an idea, Cat decides she's going to live like a cavewoman. She's going to give up technology, motor vehicles, all the trappings of modern life. This includes any food items that a cavewoman wouldn't have had access to, like chocolate, high fructose corn syrup, and french fries. For someone like Cat, who loves her Butterfingers, this is going to be pure torture. But she's determined to stick it out, just for the chance to wipe the smirk off classmate/nemesis/ex-best-friend Matt McKinney's face. And hey, if she loses a little of the stubborn poundage along the way, that would be a bonus.

Cat knows the class is going to be a killer. But she never expected it would change her life.

Oh man, what fun.

I decided to read this first because, like I said, Robin Brande always makes me laugh and I was in the mood for that. This fit the bill--fun, funny, a little poignant as Cat works through the issues that led her to treat herself so badly, and also a great romantic plot.

As the weight starts to come off, the things the fat insulated start to come to the surface. One nasty little boil that has to be lanced is exactly what happened between herself and Matt. While we're told there was a traumatic incident a few years before, the specifics are held in reserve for about 3/4 of the book. I was afraid it would be one of those Big Misunderstandings--something misheard, some lie told, and everyone's happy again when it's clarified or disproved. Luckily, that wasn't the case.The incident strikes a nice balance between actual wrong-doing that requires actual forgiveness and the kind of thing a 13-year-old would hold onto for several years, long past when it was time to let go.

Cat's actual weight loss journey also struck a lot of chords with me. I went through a similar transformation myself, if not as drastic. I'm still nowhere near where I want to be, physically. But Cat's awe at her own changing body, her emerging self-confidence, and her delight in her return to the activities she enjoyed in the past (specifically swimming, which is another of my own loves) were all things that I could nod at and go, "Yes, indeed. I hear you, sweetie."

It's a good thing I live alone, because I kept reading aloud bits of dialogue and narration and giggling to myself. Cat's interactions with her best friend Amanda in particularly were funny and warm, in the way that real best friends have perfected. Brande also has a gift for unexpectedly poignant and on-the-nose turns of phrase. There's a section close to the beginning that brought tears to my eyes because it so perfectly described how I felt:
"When I wake up in the morning, it's like I'm wearing this giant fat suit, and if only I could find the zipper I could step out of it and finally go start living my real life."
Nicely done.

The science aspect of it got a little scrambled. While Cat said that her expertise was in bugs, that's the last we ever heard of it. She never even pauses to read a particularly scintillating article on a new species of insect. Also, in the second half of the book, Cat seemed to be making exceptions to her cavewoman lifestyle right and left. I'm kind of glad she didn't win the science fair because I couldn't see how it all fell together into a national-level project. That's okay, though, because the project was just the impetus, not the story. The real story was about transformation, and where it really begins.

One last note: I soooo want a Fat Cat cookbook. Cat loves to cook and eventually becomes the chef at a vegetarian cafe with some of the cavewoman recipes she's created. I'm a terrible carnivore, but the food mentioned all sounded amazing.

Altogether, this was a fun, smart book with plenty of science and laughs mixed in.


Unknown said...

So glad to see someone else reviewing this! I reviewed it back in March and liked everything you mentioned - and also agree that her project begins to fall apart in the second half. A Fat Cat cookbook, however, is an awesome idea and I would buy it in a heartbeat!

beth said...

Now I want to read this! I guess that's the definition of a good review.