Sunday, August 25, 2013

Big Brother by Lionel Shriver

What can I say about this book? A lot, actually. My head is still reeling and I finished it last night. 

In the book, the main character, Pandora, finds out her brother, Edison, is down on his luck as a jazz musician in New York. She arranges for Edison to come visit her and her family in Iowa. She hasn't seen Edison in four years and is stunned to see that he is now almost four hundred pounds. She is heartbroken and doesn't understand what happened. 

Pandora is struggling with her feelings because while she is quite successful in her business ( a doll company), she feels that she has to hide her success because Edison is in a slump with his music. 

When Pandora and Edison were young, their father had a somewhat big success on a television sitcom. Edison strives for this same type of fame with his music, but he and Pandora also have a bond because of the odd type of childhood they had. They find themselves laughing over their father's obsession that he still has with the show and think about similarities between the show's characters and themselves.

Pandora's husband, Fletcher and her two stepchildren, Tanner and Cody are unnerved by Edison's size and are more than unwelcoming. Well, I retract that, Cody, the stepdaughter, is more compassionate towards Edison. 

To top it all off, Fletcher is somewhat of a health nut. Edison pretty much eats them out of house and home, leading to strife and high stress levels in the house. Side note: I found myself curious as to why the author chose the names in this book: Pandora, Fletcher, Edison, Tanner, Cody...also in the book, a Solstice and a Sigrid. 

Okay, I digress. Edison stays in the house for about two months before he plans to head back to New York, saying he has to get ready for a tour. Well, the date comes around for Edison to leave and Pandora finds out that there is no tour and now she's torn. She feels responsible for Edison and doesn't know how she is going to let him go, knowing that there really isn't anything for Edison to go back to. 

So, Pandora is torn between her brother and whatever is going on with him and her husband who is, in my opinion an obnoxious jerk, who has enough of Edison in the house and can't wait to get back to their normal life. 

Pandora tells herself she has to help her brother, but at what cost? Her husband basically tells her more than once that Edison has to go because he can't take anymore. Pandora decides to help her brother, concocting a whole plan to move out of her family home to move into an apartment with him to help him with a massive weight loss strategy. 

The book then moves into the next part showing a different relationship between Pandora and Edison. And, as you can imagine, Fletcher is livid. Pandora takes her brother to her family doctor and after a consultation a quick calculation is done, Edison and Pandora will need a year to get his weight off. Well, you see what's coming...her marriage falls apart. 

 This part of the book moves pretty quickly, detailing Pandora and Edison's journey and Pandora's struggle with being away from her family. Eventually, Edison reaches his goal weight...from 386 to 161. Quite impressive, right? 
In the book, when Edison has finally reaches his goal weight, Pandora throws a party. Everything is fine and dandy except when  that Fletcher comes to the party and it is revealed that while Pandora and Fletcher are trying to patch things up, Edison is stunned that the situation isn't going to stay status quo. In a gruesome act of defiance, he starts smashing chocolate cake into his face in front of Pandora, who leaves the apartment to go back with Fletcher right away. She then explains that as time went on, Edison got bigger and bigger destroying all their hard work. 

SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 

It never happened. What??? Pandora stops her narrative almost in mid stride saying that her great weight loss plan never took place. It was all made up to make her feel better--creating a alternate series of events in her mind that would have been ideal.  In "reality", Edison got on the plane when he was supposed to and went back to New York, leaving Pandora in Iowa, basically ignoring her brother's problem.  

I related this to Pandora making up her own "show" like her father had back in the day. She wanted to rewrite her brother's story into a happy ending. Although, I have no idea why in her made up version, she had Edison sabotage himself by acting out, showing jealousy over her and Fletcher's reunion. But, who cares? That part was "fake". 

I have never read Lionel Shriver, and I might be leery to do so again. First of all, NOBODY in this book was likable. I must be old fashioned, but Pandora and Fletcher let Tanner, who is seventeen, drop the f bomb like it is nothing and never say a word about how disrespectful he is. Fletcher is just completely hateful and even before the "fake" part starts, he is TERRIBLE to Edison, even calling him a "fat f***." Let me tell you something. My husband is a wonderful person, but if he called one of my siblings a fat f***, I would smash him in the face and leave him on the spot. So, in my opinion, Pandora is weak.

Edison is not likable either. He lives in some fog, overstating his achievements and talking like some old jazz musician, using words like "cat" to describe someone and "dig." 

Yet another book where NOBODY talks like these characters did. Especially Pandora. NOBODY uses words like she did, even in her thoughts. I found myself skimming pages because some of it actually read like a textbook. 

I immediately logged onto today to find out what people said about this book. To tell you the truth, I was kind of mad I wasted the days I did on it. I usually read pretty quickly, but this took me from August 14-August 24. I wanted to find out what happened so I slogged through it. Some parts were good, but again, everyone was unlikable and they were even more so by the end. Would love to hear your comments! 

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