I read Big Brother by Lionel Shriver this week, and it was as good as I remember it being from past readings. Here is what I said about it last time:
This novel follows successful Iowa entrepreneur Pandora Halfdanarson as she tries to deal with the extended visit of her brother Edison Appaloosa, a washed-up New York jazz pianist who never quite made it big. Pandora’s current family is made up of husband Fletcher, a specialty furniture maker who has filled the basement with unsold pieces, teen-aged stepson Tanner, who hates school and wants to quit in order to write screenplays, and stepdaughter Cody, a shy girl who wants to please everyone. When Edison shows up at the Iowa airport, Pandora doesn’t recognize the morbidly obese man being pushed along in a wheelchair by airline staff as her brother, a man she has idolized all her life, remembering him as cool, slick, and attractive. Four years later, he has become an object of public ridicule and Pandora is put in a position that threatens her own family as she must decide how to help her brother before it is too late and he eats himself to death... This book is about relationships, and how we deal with those we love; it is about responsibility, and how we offer support to them, while also taking responsibility for ourselves. It is also about dealing with those we do not love, but whose presence in our lives we cannot truly escape. It is about mid-life crisis, and realizing that this is “as good as it gets”. We discussed Fletcher, his obsession with cycling and fitness, and determined that, at age 47, he was doing exactly what any other man of that age would do; in fact several of our husbands were doing these same things, though not to the lengths Fletcher was taking them... (My book group) also talked about the way Shriver describes society’s values, and how we make snap judgments of others based on first appearances, particularly regarding weight. When Pandora first weighs herself before they start their liquid diet, she responds with amazement and denial. Shriver writes: “(T)he weigh-in was now subject to the most ruthless of interpretations. I believed – and could not understand why I believed this, since I didn’t believe it – that the number on the dial was a verdict on my very character. It appraised whether I was strong, whether I was self-possessed, whether I was someone anyone else would conceivably wish to be” (p. 230). Due to her successful business, Baby Monotonous, Pandora is often asked to give interviews and pose for photo shoots, something she grudgingly endures. These experiences incite her to consider herself as someone others see, making the reader, too, consider this. How often do we look in the mirror every day, but not really see ourselves as others would see us? I think it is healthy to get on with life without obsessing about how we look to others, but I suppose it is also good to take a step back and get outside ourselves sometime and assess who and what we are to other people. Oh boy, there are soooo many things in this book to discuss, but I must stop now or I’ll be at the computer all day... In closing, Shriver’s brutal honesty will make readers look inward and explore their own character while hoping for the best for Pandora, Edison, Fletcher, and the other characters who populate the pages of this outstanding, thought-provoking novel.
This is an accurate description of my reading experience this time around as well, and I would highly recommend this book to any reader.
That's all for today. Stay warm and keep reading!
Bye for now...