Friday, June 20, 2014

Book Review: The Curvy Girls Club

By Kathryn Hamilton

I was recently watching a popular dance competition show. One of the girls auditioning told the story of how she had taken two years off to go to rehab for an eating disorder. In response to this emotional story, one of the judges whispered, “I hate this. Being a girl is so hard.” How true that is. This sentiment no doubt resonated with any girl or woman watching. Women in particular are pressured not only by the media but also by society to fit into a narrow idea of what their bodies should look like (men have pressure as well; I would never deny that). However, the majority of women do not “fit a fashion model size” (in the words of the late Maya Angelou) and the average size has increased over the years. We are constantly bombarded with new and fantastic ways to shed those pesky pounds. There are demoralizing stereotypes for those who are overweight. It is a struggle for most women to feel happy with their bodies, regardless of their weight. These struggles are very poignantly explored in Michele Gorman’s thought-provoking new novel that follows Katie Winterbottom and her three best friends in The Curvy Girls Club.

Katie, Ellie, Jane, and Pixie met at a weight loss group (something akin to Weight Watchers) where they fast became best friends. Pixie’s frustrations with the program cause her to quit and suggests that the four women meet weekly for social outings where the focus isn’t on weight. Word of the fun outings begins to spread and The Curvy Girls Club is born. This is a social group where men and women of a larger size can feel comfortable in outings, where they can feel “normal.” Amidst the success of the club, the four friends must deal with secrets, complicated love lives, and decisions that may tear them apart.

As has been the case while reading other Michele Gorman novels, I could not and did not want to put it down. Ms. Gorman has a way of storytelling that draws the reader into the world of the characters. Readers understand the characters because they are thoughtfully and realistically developed throughout the novel. Although told from Katie’s point of view, each character has the opportunity to give her own backstory, allowing readers to understand how she came to be in the present. If one has any preconceived notions about those who are significantly overweight, I recommend reading this novel. Ms. Gorman permits the reader to get inside the minds of these women without judgment. I felt their heartache, desperation and frustration, while also celebrating their successes.

Generally speaking, I enjoyed the cast of characters. The one exception is Pixie. Although I was empathetic to her situation, I found her to be too abrasive and hypocritical. At one point, Pixie leads an attack on Katie that I felt was unfair although I did understand one aspect of the argument. Katie, on the other hand, is a wonderful protagonist. I believe every reader will find something about her that they can identify with, even if it is the fantasy of being with the one man who doesn’t seem to know you exist. I found myself really liking Jane and Ellie as characters as well, and could see myself being friends with them.

I can’t say enough about this novel. When dealing with weight and body image, it can often be a delicate issue. Ms. Gorman is not preachy or judgmental, and gives the women a voice. She sensitively and respectfully addresses the topics of weight, self-judgment and prejudice. However, one does not need to be obese to identify with the characters. At the heart of this novel is the desire for acceptance and a sense of fitting in, but ultimately learning to love yourself regardless of the outer shell. Cheers to Ms. Gorman!

Thanks to Notting Hill Press for the book in exchange for an honest review. To celebrate the US and Canadian launch of The Curvy Girls Club, Notting Hill Press would like to offer Michele’s short story, Weightless (reviewed here), for free (it’s on sale on for $1.99). You can simply email and they’ll get membership to the real Curvy Girls Club* along with Weightless for their eReader (any device). Also join them on Facebook for daily doses of positive inspiration!

*No need to be curvy - it's a daily dose of loveliness for everyone!

More by Michele Gorman:

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