Dietland follows Plum in her evolution from a woman just waiting for her skinny self to a more body aware self, with a heavy dose of feminist mixed in. I’ve written/deleted/rewritten to find the right phrase, but I think body aware best gets at what I’m talking about. At the start, Plum clearly knows she is overweight, as she is considering gastric bypass after a life of dieting. However, so much of what she does while trying to become her inner skinny self is to ignore her body as much as possible — hunger, cravings, its mere existence by hiding in black, shapeless clothes. By the end, I won’t say she fully owns her body, as there is still so. much. anger. in her that reads like she’s still working through stuff, but she is well on her way.
In an odd series of events, Plum gets connected to a feminist organization who try to “encourage” her to wake up to the body shaming messages in the world and own her self. Again, I’m having trouble finding the right word because there are some members of the group who claim it is all her choice, no pressure, but some of their tactics include keeping her in a room where porn is streaming 24/7. The author is clear to mention that Plum is choosing to stay & participate, but I can’t help but think that it is a bit of a mindfuck for a character who is so weak at the start to stand even a little bit of a chance against this group of strong minded, strong willed women she admires.
Throughout Plum’s re-education period, there is a B plot focusing on a vigilante group referring to herself/themselves as “Jennifer” who were bringing their own justice to men who commit crimes against women and women who harbor those men. This plot line stayed relevant as a catalyst for Plum at various points, but I can’t help but think Id like the book better if Plum was the B plot and the Jennifer group was the primary. [As an aside, right after finishing this book, I watched the “Childhood’s End” miniseries from SyFy, where a group of creepy kids were gathering around/worshiping the main creepy kid named…Jennifer. Gave the miniseries a whole other dimension for me!]
Finally, I have to touch on the Fight Club theme — The good: While clearly inspired by Fight Club (even acknowledged in the author notes), the Plum’s rebellion is kinda sorta believable for someone who undergoes a major shake-up. The bad: It is a little annoying that the Fight Club inspiration was SO clear that I was pleasantly surprised it wasn’t a 1:1 clone of the plot.
I didn’t plan to read a pro-feminist/anti-diet industry book around New Year’s resolution time — just grabbed one from my library pile for a weekend away — but the timing worked out well. 3 stars for a novel spin on the “love yourself” genre & for giving me a nice bit of grounding at “lose 10 lbs! join the gym! eat all the veggies!” time of year, but not more than that, since it was more clunky than I’d like in delivery and I regularly went back & forth between “is this too ridiculous that I can’t suspend disbelief?” & “yeah, I’ll go along for the ride”.