When her father died some years back, ""there were so many consoling remarks"" about his smallness that little Lydia Bitte...



When her father died some years back, ""there were so many consoling remarks"" about his smallness that little Lydia Bitte became fearfully obsessed about her own diminutive stature. Even now, pretty and bright at 15, Lydia feels panicked, sensitive about her smallness. Though she's a rock of stability at home, more competent than her mother or younger sister, she's withdrawn at school--depressed by her sometime boyfriend (a pawing rock 'n' roller who calls her ""Littlebit""), preferring to spend time either drawing or working in the dress shop of bouncy family friend Claudine. Then, however, Claudine's niece Michelle--who needs a place away from her parents--comes to stay with the Bittes while going for periodic medical treatments: a severe sufferer of anorexia nervosa, Michelle's been in and out of hospitals, a nearly hopeless case. At first, the new houseguest stays strictly in her room, while Lydia and the rest recoil in ill-disguised horror. But soon Michelle starts realizing that she's found herself a laissez-faire, sloppy household very different from her parents'; she and Lydia begin talking, sharing an interest in art--as well as a sort of cosmic feeling about size. Then, in a charmingly handled bit of improvised, unplanned therapy, Lydia starts gaining weight (partly in response to Michelle's gauntness)--so Michelle agrees to try to gain a little weight herself. . . if it will help her new friend from getting fat. And thus it goes through the next few months, with Michelle and Lydia both getting a little better, drawing on their shared half-understanding of the parallel sources of their anxieties. (Michelle's involve her loathed father, her mother's lost opportunities; Lydia's still reach back to her dead father.) First-novelist Willey avoids pat, quick solutions here--which means a fairly limp, halfheartedly cheerful, open-ended fadeout. But everywhere else the low-key approach pays off, brightening up (but not sugar-coating) the somewhat clinical material--with engaging supporting players, unstagily neat dialogue, and a plausible sense of teenage depression's tolerable ups and downs.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1983


Page Count: -

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1983

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