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THE FATTENING HUT by Pat Lowery Collins


by Pat Lowery Collins

Age Range: 14 & up

Pub Date: Sept. 22nd, 2003
ISBN: 0-618-30955-1
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Collins’s novel in free verse doesn’t quite hang together. Helen is coming of age in a fictional island culture (borrowed from Nigerian custom and the British West Indies) where girls are taken to the “fattening hut” before they’re married. There they’re fed rich delicacies for days, until they develop the womanly folds that make them attractive. Helen is nervous about marriage, and her body rebels, growing steadily thinner (a psychosomatic reaction? Collins doesn’t explain). When she discovers that the ritual also involves genital mutilation, Helen runs away. Collins beautifully evokes the setting and Helen’s inner voice with her keen sense of rhythm. Sadly, characters all speak in the same voice, confusing the dialogue, and the form often bogs down the narrative. The overall effect of Collins’s complex work is ungainly, and it will be the unusual reader who’s drawn to the title and the cover of this only partly successful effort. (Fiction. YA)