I had a really shit week, and Julie Murphy’s Dumplin’ got me through it. Strong but vulnerable teenage girls, daring adventures, Dolly Parton, good looking boys, and really good writing took me away from most of my woes. The stinky farts after my dog got into some garbage were inescapable.
Willowdean, known as Will to most, and Dumplin’ to her mother is growing up in a small town in west Texas. Will is fat. It bothers her mother, a former beauty queen who runs the local teen beauty pageant. Sometimes it bothers Will, mostly other people’s reactions bother her more than her actual body. It doesn’t seem to bother her best friend, but maybe it does.
As an act of defiance, Will enters the teen pageant and there is a seismic shift in Will’s life and relationships. I don’t want to talk too much about the plot, because reading along with Will’s adventures, discoveries and regrets is the reward. Murphy does such a wonderful job of portraying the inner turmoil of an essentially strong character.
A lot of Dumplin’ is about who is getting in your way. Is it something outside of you? Is it you? Can you change it, or can you change the way you respond to it? There is definitely a message about self acceptance and self confidence in the book, but it is a character book more than a message book. Everything the characters do is natural and it feels very much like they are living full lives off the page.