Searching for the husband who disappeared on the eve of their 25th wedding anniversary, an obese woman changes her life.
The mystery in Lansens’s follow-up to The Girls (2006) is not why long-suffering Gooch left but what took him so long. Four-hundred-pound Mary has pushed him away for years, distrusting and refusing every gesture of affection. She has been under the sway of what she calls “the obeast” since childhood; she and Gooch fell in love as seniors in high school, after a parasitic infection caused a sudden weight loss. A gifted writer, Gooch gave up his college dreams to marry Mary when she became pregnant. But she miscarried before the wedding, her weight returned, and it increased even more once she learned she could not have children. For years Gooch has tried to interest Mary in the larger world, or in himself, but her only passion has been food. He goes missing after depositing $25,000 from a scratch-and-win lottery game into their joint checking account. Devastated, she is finally galvanized to leave their small Ontario hometown to look for him. Serendipitous events follow. Restaurant receipts lead her to Toronto, where she finds Gooch’s long-lost sister, who says he’s headed to see his estranged mother in Golden Hills, Calif. On the curb outside LAX, a kindly limo driver picks up Mary and arranges a salon makeover before dropping her at her mother-in-law’s house. Gooch isn’t there, but while waiting for him in California Mary befriends a divorcee with triplets and a hunky Mexican-American gardener. She warms to Gooch’s prickly mother, whose revelations force Mary to reexamine her marriage. Meanwhile, she loses her appetite. By the time she accepts that Gooch may not return, she is svelte and eating only for the right reasons. Readers will still be hungry: While Mary’s evolution is all too predictable, Lansens never adequately explains the more enigmatic, sympathetic Gooch.