A desperate housewife seeks to renew her spirit and her relationship with her family through a radical new diet in this tasty novel of recovery.
Thirty-something Chicago mom Colleen Adler drinks too much and struggles with a thyroid condition and constipation. She cedes the mothering of her two young daughters to the maid; frets that her husband, a lawyer, is having an affair; and suffers catty abuse from her mother-in-law, Dinah, the queen bee of the Harborview Country Club. Worst of all, in her view, she’s gained weight—she’s now 185 pounds—and she fears a social firing squad if she can’t fit into a svelte designer dress in time for Harborview’s Fourth of July gala. She repairs to weight-loss guru and all-around healer Kory Stone, whose ministrations include mirror work and talk therapy. Her central treatment, however, is a “detox diet” of sadistically healthy fare, prepared by a holistic chef—complete with kale, quinoa, yams, and seaweed. Colleen endures an agonizing week of caffeine-withdrawal headaches and doughnut cravings—but then she starts feeling lighter, regains her regularity, and perks up enough to read bedtime stories; soon, the bathroom scale noses downward. Then it’s time for deeper work, as Kory’s psychic friend Rachel helps Colleen communicate with her dead brother’s shade and reconnect with her parents, which requires her to confront their toxic home-cooked meals. Debut author Booker, a wellness coach, pokes entertaining fun at an appearance-obsessed culture of well-heeled women and vividly captures their sensuous battle with food. (Colleen “loved the soft snap of cold cheese as she bit down into the sweet tomato sauce” of leftover pizza.) Her countervailing depiction of New Age therapeutics sidesteps satire, though, and feels a bit too earnest. Booker’s prose is sharp and engaging, but Colleen is a weak protagonist; for much of the book, she’s a feckless person who relies on others for expectations and direction until extreme dieting finally rouses a little gumption in her. It’s a shrewd portrait of a dysfunctional personality, but sometimes Colleen is too dreary for readers to care about her.
A smart, well-observed saga of lifestyle redemption that’s weighed down by an inert heroine.