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Sunday, May 5, 2013

Speed Shrinking by Susan Shapiro~★★1/2

Author: Susan Shapiro
Title: Speed Shrinking
Release Date: August 4, 2009
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Genre: Fiction

Book Jacket: "In Susan Shapiro's laugh-out-loud funny fictional debut, Speed Shrinking, Manhattan self-help author Julia Goodman thinks she's got her addictive personality under control. Then her beloved psychoanalyst moves away at the same time her husband takes off to L.A. and her best friend gets married and moves to Ohio.
Feeling lonely and left out, Julia fills the void with food, becomes a cupcake addict, and blimps out. This is a huge problem---especially since she's about to go on national television to plug her hot new self-help book about how she conquered her sugar addiction. 
Navigating her insurance network, Julia desperately sees eight shrinks in eight days, speed-dating for Dr. Replacement---or any other new guru---to help shrink back her body and anxiety in time for her close up." 

Taryn's Review: Disappointingly, this book was not really about "speed shrinking" as the book jacket described. Julia's eight-shrinks-in-eight-days was covered in a few brief pages in this nearly 300-page book. I didn't laugh once while reading this book, either, like the jacket said I would.

The book focused on Julia's coping mechanism after the loss of her "three pillars of support." Her coping mechanism was sugar in any form (not just cupcakes), and she indulged at every opportunity and gained roughly 35 pounds. Julia also began seeing a new therapist, who she called Dr. Cigar, while still seeing her old therapist via iChat and emails.

There were annoyances in the book that pushed the storyline too obviously. Julia's best friend since childhood, Sarah, tells Julia she's moving to Ohio with her soon-to-be-husband because he won a contract for the Cleveland Museum. At brunch the day after the wedding, Sarah's husband tells Julia he hates the city and is a Midwestern boy at heart. I have a hard time believing that during Sarah's courtship with him that he never once would have mentioned this preference. Julia even touted before this point in the book that she was the one who helped Sarah see what a great guy he was, yet she had no clue he wanted to move back home? Sarah also quickly became stereotyped in her marriage, making her exit in Julia's life quite easy. The complexity of a lifelong friendship fizzled out rather smoothly, yet Julia's relationship with her therapist seemed to be at the core of her worries.

By the last third of the book, it had taken turns that really hurt the overall enjoyment of the story. The ending was not good. I really don't understand what exactly I was supposed to take away from it other than noting that Julia was still neurotic and self-centered about her weight. Julia wasn't always a likeable character; I'm not really sure that Julia suffered from an illness in the way she so desperately wanted to suffer. Ironically, after reading about Julia, she would be the last person I'd want to write a self-help book. Julia is obnoxious, noisy, dramatic, and selfish, but she's a great publish speaker, confident, charming, and expressive, which made her a hit with the public. Julia is hard to empathize with, and it only gets harder to do by the end of the book.

Shapiro showed promise in this book, but the story was flat and missing that pull that makes you fall in love. Shapiro has written other books from what I can tell; I wouldn't seek them out necessarily, but I wouldn't turn my nose at one, either.  A great book about someone dealing with an addiction and the plight to overcome and accept such issues is Toni Jordan's Addiction. Ultimately, Shapiro's first attempt at fiction was not a favorite for me and the story was too long, too bland, and the main character was too unlikeable.


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