Continuing on my research of widows (both actual and fictional), I picked up Stephanie Evanovich’s Big Girl Panties (not sure of any relationship to Janet Evanovich – although, bonus on the last name to
cash in garner interest – even if using the surname has caused some confusion). Anyway, ugly terrible horrible title aside, I settled in for a novel in which the protagonist has recently lost her husband to pancreatic cancer. Guys, I’m here to let you know, she’s fat. It’s the first thing we learn about her. It’s a constant. It’s one of the driving plot lines (her weight loss and society’s view of larger individuals). There is some back story about her dead husband, but he seems a bit of an afterthought – an excuse to get Holly where she is today. This is the third work of fiction I’ve read and the furthest from the life and struggles of my character. The dead husband is almost a non-entity. He only serves the purpose to die and do nothing to help her self-confidence. We learn the basics about him and of course his death has an impact on Holly, but it’s not one that has any lasting value. She has no family to support her. No friends or co-workers. This is a distinct difference from my own protagonist, who has a variety of people who want to be there for her.
So, (spoiler) even when she hooks up with the love interest (after she loses a ton of weight) there is no guilt. The only thought of her dead husband is, “Wow, I didn’t know sex could be this way.” (When I compare this scene with Gray from my recently reviewed Catch and Release, the situation is somehow different. I don’t know if it’s because of the Garner/Olyphant chemistry, or because it seemed more ‘in character’ for both of them. It might also be that their characters had great tension whereas Holly/Logan were kind of obvious/forced).
Now, I’ve been struggling with whether or not to include a love interest in my WIP, but, in getting to know my character, have to think, ‘No. She’s not ready.’ Will she be ready to love again one day? Sure, maybe – but that’s going to be off screen in another novel and whatever that relationship is, it will have nothing to do with my main character’s weight.
Would I recommend Big Girl Panties? If you can get past the title and enjoy a halfway decent sex scene or two, then maybe (it’s priced perfectly at $1.99). However, and I’m not as sensitive/aware of the topic, the reviews seem to have a lot of issue with the subject of weight/fat shaming in this novel. In fact, the comments section has some fantastic discourse if you’re looking for further information.
Would I read the prequel Ms. Evanovich mentions in her Author Notes? No, I would not.