Friday, August 29, 2008

Conversations with the Fat Girl

Title: Conversations with the Fat Girl
Author: Liza Palmer
Date Finished: August 28, 2008
Pages: 328

Have you ever found a book that you related to on so many different levels that you just did not want to put it down? I will be honest, chick-lit is not one of my favorite genres, but when I read the synopsis of this book I felt an immediate connection to the main character and her trials and tribulations with her best friend. Having just gone through very similar experiences, I found myself anticipating the outcome and wondering if it would be similar to my own.

Maggie and Olivia have been best friends for years, having bonded in middle school because they were both overweight and outcasts. The girls fantasize all throughout high school about big events in their lives and how everyone will realize that these girls really are great and want to be a part of their lives. Years later at the age of 22, Olivia being the bigger of the two, decides to undergo gastric bypass surgery. After becoming a "skinny girl," Olivia falls in love and become engaged to Dr. Adam Farrell. Upon visiting them on the east coast, Maggie discovers that they sleep in their own double beds in the same room, Adam is obviously repulsed by overweight girls, and seems to be looking for a trophy wife to show off on his arm.

Maggie finds herself discontent working as a barista in a coffee house along with the one man she cannot stop thinking about, Domenic, the busboy and doll maker. Domenic (whose real name is Domenico) works in the family doll making factory, where he is in charge of making the small hands and feet for the dolls. Maggie finds herself always acting awkward around him and not confident enough to tell him how she really feels. The two dance around the topic of a relationship the entire book. The question of whether they would become a couple or not, started to get on my nerves, but I really appreciated that this book did not focus solely on her finding a boyfriend, but on finding her own self.

Maggie was chosen to be Olivia's Maid of Honor and bends over backwards throughout the whole book to do everything she can to make this event as special and meaningful as possible for her best friend. She also sees it as her own personal reward, because years ago, they were both just fat girls who no one liked, and here they are 15+ years later and one of them is marrying this handsome doctor. What Maggie seems oblivious to is the fact that her best friend really hasn't been a friend for several years. Ever since becoming skinny, Olivia has hidden the fact that she was ever fat from all of her new friends, and seems to have made up this really great past that Maggie knows is no where near the truth. Olivia is constantly disappointing Maggie, and cannot seem to find time in her busy schedule to actually call her back, but does have time to talk to her new friend Gwen, who is also quite rude to Maggie. Even though Maggie is the MOH, Gwen is determined to have a special spot in the festivities, and is always monopolizing Olivia's time, which seems to be of no concern for Olivia.

Things really start to come to a climax at the Bachelorette party in Las Vegas. Wanting to make this day as special as she can, Maggie has set up to have drinks with just Olivia before the festivities start. Hoping to rekindle the friendship that seems to be missing, Maggie wanted to spend some quality alone time with her best friend before her big day. After three unreturned phone calls to confirm, Maggie goes out with her sister Kate, whom she brought along for support on this trip, to wait at the restaurant where all the party goers are suppose to have high tea. When the other guests start to arrive it becomes very embarrassing for Maggie that the Bride and Gwen are the only ones not present. Thirty minutes later they do finally show up and Maggie finds out that they had flown in early and spent the whole day together shopping, getting pampered at the spa (which was Maggie's birthday gift to Olivia) and just hanging out. Feeling frustrated, Maggie chooses not to say anything and they move on to the next activity. Feeling more confident, since she has lost a size, Maggie grabs her new outfit and cowboy hat as they head to the bar. Gwen makes a nasty comment which riles up Kate who in her drunken haze, confronts her. When it becomes apparent that Olivia is not going to do anything to stand up to her friend, Maggie, on the verge of tears, pulls her sister out of the bar and heads back to the hotel. At three a.m. Maggie gets a call from a desperate Olivia who wants to meet. Maggie sneaks out of her room, where her sister is sleeping, and meets Olivia who is in tears and feeling bad about not defending her at the bar. She gives Maggie her birthday gift, which is a beautiful necklace with an M & O on it, and begs Maggie to promise she will still be a part of the wedding.

After telling herself that she just would not know what to do without her best friend, Maggie once again gives in to Olivia, and wants to still be a part of her big day. When she tells her family, Kate is obviously upset and feels betrayed that she stood up for her sister only to have her go running back to the person that was so openly mean to her in public. The worst for Maggie is when her mom tells her she will not accompany her to the wedding and that she wants her to realize that Olivia is not a real friend. Feeling like she is being let down, her mom explains to her that she loves her and is tired of watching her continuously hurt by the same person.

It is wonderful to watch Maggie become more confident in herself as the book progresses, she finally does something with her degree that she loves, she starts taking better care of herself by going to a personal trainer, and she stops allowing herself to be used by others. Having that defining moment where you realize that you do have the power to make changes in your own life, and you actually take back control is a great thing.

The day before the rehearsal Maggie finds out she is no longer a part of the head table with Olivia and in fact has been banished to the furthest table from them, Table 9. Olivia's mother asks her to take the pictures Olivia has selected to a place that can put them together as a slide show. Instead, Maggie volunteers and says she will do it on her computer. The night of the rehearsal dinner, Maggie confidently walks to Table 9, where she is the only person, since everyone else who was suppose to sit there has grabbed a chair and moved closer. When it is time for the slide show, the guests finally get to see the real Olivia. Maggie has gone through and added in slides of the two of them when they were younger, and some of the fun things they did together. Olivia freaks out, and begins screaming at her mom for adding in pictures that she did not pick. Maggie walks over and tell her that she is the one who put the pictures in, because these were some of the best times these two girls had growing up. Realizing that Olivia has drastically changed and really is not a friend, Maggie walks out. On her way out, she runs into Gwen who makes some comment about seeing her the next day to which Maggie finally makes a comment she has been wanting to make to Gwen for a long time.

Maggie does not end up stand up next to Olivia as her Maid of Honor, but does learn some great things about herself. Through this trying time in her life, she has discovered who her real friends are, found confidence in herself and allowed herself to look past the body type and realize that she has the power to be the person she wants to be. In our society today, the majority of the population is overweight, and it is due to lack of activity, giving in to high calorie foods, the convenience of stopping for fast food instead of cooking a healthy meal, and portion size. I myself struggle with weight, but I know that all I have to do is take back control. I have the power to control what I put into my body, when I work out, what other activities I participate in, and how motivated I am. I really enjoyed this book and the journey that Maggie had to endure.

It is truly heartbreaking when a friendship dies, but friendship like so many other things work both ways. To have a good friend, you need to be a good friend and when one person is doing all the work, something is wrong. Sometimes we hold on because we are afraid of not having someone in the "best friend" role in our lives, but that is no reason to hang on to something that has been gone for a while. I know it was hard for Maggie to walk away from Olivia and her wedding, but she is a better person for it, and without Olivia there to hold her back she will continue to succeed, rebuild confidence in herself and really enjoy life. I loved this book and hope to see something else by Liza Palmer soon!

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