Whitfield's second novel (after Beeperless Remote, 1996), a romantic comedy set in the social swarm of contemporary weight-loss culture, is just about as thin as the characters wish their stomachs were. Sonny Walker, thirtysomething, has been gaining weight. In fact, so much weight that beautiful Marsha dumps him just as he's reaching for another piece of cheesecake. After the breakup, he goes on to gain some more, but then when he's asked to model as a tent at work (a sporting-goods store), Sonny decides some serious weight loss is in order. Signing up with FutraSystem, he quickly gets acquainted there with a shady counselor who realizes that "A hefty guy like you ain't gonna make it on that little bit of food they give you." For a little extra cash, therefore, Sonny can get as much Futra food as he can pack away. But, more important, at that first meeting he encounters Kayla (smart, sassy, and independent). There's only one problem: she's too fat. Nevertheless, they strike up a friendship—the kind that's supposed to offer support if they ever feel the urge to, uh, cheat on their diets. (They cheat, anyway.) Though Sonny feels guilty about his failures to meet the challenge, Kayla is comfy with her own body: she's always been overweight, deriving her self-image from who she is, as opposed to what she looks like. The two build a tender relationship (despite their aversion to dating anybody on the obese side) as Sonny sticks anew to the goals of his diet and exercise regime and Kayla remains happily the way she's always been. For her second outing, Whitfield has built a compelling portrait of young African-Americans in D.C., with humor that's sometimes laugh-out-loud (does an extra-big man really need extra-big condoms?), but there's no emotional resonance also built in, anything that might make a reader cheer on Sonny and Kayla's battle against the bulge—and their thick-thighed romance. Amusing, but little else.
Read full book review >