Dietland

by Sarai Walker

A fresh and provocative debut novel about a reclusive young woman saving up for weight loss surgery when she gets drawn into a shadowy feminist guerilla group called "Jennifer"—equal parts Bridget Jones's Diary and Fight Club

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN-13/ EAN: 9780544373433
  • ISBN-10: 054437343X
  • Pages: 320
  • Publication Date: 05/26/2015
  • Carton Quantity: 12

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About the Book
About the Author
Excerpts
Reviews
  • About the Book
    A Best Book of the Year 

    Entertainment Weekly • Bustle • Amazon • Women’s National Book Association • Kirkus ReviewsBookPage • Kobo • LitReactor 

       

    “Audacious and gutsy and heartbreaking — Dietland completely blew me away.” — Jennifer Weiner 

     

    The diet revolution is here. And it’s armed. 

      

    Plum Kettle does her best not to be noticed, because when you’re fat, to be noticed is to be judged. With her job answering fan mail for a teen magazine, she is biding her time until her weight-loss surgery. But when a mysterious woman in colorful tights and combat boots begins following her, Plum falls down a rabbit hole into the world of Calliope House — an underground community of women who reject society’s rules — and is forced to confront the real costs of becoming “beautiful.” At the same time, a guerilla group begins terrorizing a world that mistreats women, and Plum becomes entangled in a sinister plot. The consequences are explosive. 

     

    “A giddy revenge fantasy that will shake up your thinking and burrow under your skin” (Entertainment Weekly), Dietland takes on the beauty industry, gender inequality, and our weight-loss obsession — with fists flying.

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  • About the Author
  • Excerpts
    RABBIT HOLE 

      

      

    It was late in the spring when I noticed that a girl was following me, nearly the end of May, a month that means perhaps or might be. She crept into the edges of my consciousness like something blurry coming into focus. She was an odd girl, tramping around in black boots with the laces undone, her legs covered in bright fruit-hued tights, like the colors in a roll of Life Savers. I didn’t know why she was following me. People stared at me wherever I went, but this was different. To the girl I was not an object of ridicule but a creature of interest. She would observe me and then write things in her red spiral-bound notebook. 

            The first time I noticed the girl in a conscious way was at the café. On most days I did my work there, sitting at a table in the back with my laptop, answering messages from teenage girls. Dear Kitty, I have stretch marks on my boobs, please help. There was never any end to the messages and I usually sat at my table for hours, sipping cups of coffee and peppermint tea as I gave out the advice I wasn’t qualified to give. For three years the café had been my world. I couldn’t face working at home, trapped in my apartment all day with nothing to distract me from the drumbeat of Dear Kitty,Dear Kitty, please help me. 

            One afternoon I looked up from a message I was typing and saw the girl sitting at a table nearby, restlessly tapping her lime green leg, her canvas bag slouched in the chair across from her. I realized that I’d seen her before. She’d been sitting on the stoop of my building that morning. She had long dark hair and I remembered how she turned to look at me. Our eyes met and it was this look that I would remember in the weeks and months to come, when her face was in the newspapers and on TV — the glance over the shoulder, the eyes peeking out from the thick black liner that framed them. 

            After I noticed her at the café that day, I began to see her in other places. When I emerged from my Waist Watchers meeting, the girl was across the street, leaning against a tree. At the supermarket I spotted her reading the nutrition label on a can of navy beans. I made my way around the cramped aisles of Key Food, down the canyons of colorful cardboard and tin, and the girl trailed me, tossing random things into her shopping basket (cinnamon, lighter fluid) whenever I turned to look at her. 

            I was used to being stared at, but that was by people who looked at me with disgust as I went about my business in the neighborhood. They didn’t study me closely, not like this girl did. I spent most of my time trying to blend in, which wasn’t easy, but with the girl following me it was like someone had pulled the covers off my bed, leaving me in my underpants, shivering and exposed. 

            Walking home one evening, I could sense that the girl was behind me, so I turned to face her. “Are you following me?” 

            She removed tiny white buds from her ears. “I’m sorry? I didn’t hear you.” I had never heard her speak before. I had expected a flimsy voice, but what I heard was a confident tone. 

            “Are you following me?” I asked again, not as bold as the first time. 

            “Am I following you?” The girl looked amused. “I’m afraid I don’t know what you’re talking about.” She brushed past me and continued on down the sidewalk, being careful not to trip on the tree roots that had burst through the concrete. 

            As I watched the girl walk away, I didn’t yet see her for who she was: a messenger from another world, come to wake me from my sleep. 

      

      

    When I think of my life at that time, back then, I imagine looking down on it as if it were contained in a box, like a diorama — there are the neighborhood streets and I am a figurine dressed in black. My daily activities kept me within a five-block radius and had done so for years: I moved between my apartment, the café, Waist Watchers. My life had narrow parameters, which is how I preferred it. I saw myself as an outline then, waiting to be filled in. 

            From the outside, to someone like the girl, I might have seemed sad, but I wasn’t. Each day I took thirty milligrams of the antidepressant Y ——. I had taken Y —— since my senior year of college. That year there had been a situation with a boy. In the weeks after the Christmas break I slipped into a dark spiral, spending most of my time in the library, pretending to study. The library was on the seventh floor and I stood at the window one afternoon and imagined jumping out of it and landing in the snow, where it wouldn’t hurt as much. A librarian saw me — later I found out I had been crying — and she called the campus doctor. Soon after that pharmaceuticals became inevitable. My mother flew to Vermont. She and Dr. Willoughby (an old gray man, with gray hair, tinted glasses, a discolored front tooth) decided it was best for me to see a therapist and take Y ——. The medication took away my sadness and replaced it with something else — not happiness, but more like a low dull hum, a weak radio frequency of feeling that couldn’t be turned up or down. 

            Long after college ended, and the therapy ended, and I’d moved to New York, I continued to take Y ——. I lived in an apartment on Swann Street in Brooklyn, on the second floor of a brownstone. It was a long and skinny place that stretched from the front of the building to the back, with polished blond floorboards and a bay window that overlooked the street at the front. Such an apartment, on a coveted block, was beyond my means, but my mother’s cousin Jeremy owned it and reduced the rent for me. He would have let me live there rent-free if my mother hadn’t nosed in and demanded I pay something, but what I paid was a small amount. Jeremy worked as a reporter for the Wall Street Journal. After his wife died he was desperate to leave New York and especially Brooklyn, the borough of his unhappiness. His bosses sent him to Buenos Aires, then Cairo. There were two bedrooms in the apartment and one of them was filled with his things, but it didn’t seem as if he would ever come back for them. 

            There were few visitors to the apartment on Swann Street. My mother came to see me once a year. My friend Carmen visited sometimes, but I mostly saw her at the café. In my real life I would have more friends, and dinner parties and overnight guests, but my life wasn’t real yet.

  • Reviews
    An Amazon Top 100 Editors' Pick of the Year 

    One of Entertainment Weekly's "10 Best Books of 2015" 

    One of Bustle's "2015’s 25 Best Books, Fiction Edition" 

    A New York Post “Best Novel to Read This Summer”  

    An Us Weekly “Hot Summer Novel” 

    O, The Oprah Magazine, "10 Titles to Pick Up Now" 

    A USA Today “New and Noteworthy” Book  

    One of Vulture's "8 Books You Need to Read This May" 

    A Kirkus "Best Fiction of 2015" Title 

    One of BookPage's "Best Books of 2015" 

    One of Kobo.com's "Must Read Fiction Debuts of 2015" 

    A LitReactor Staff Pick: The Best Books of 2015 

    One of New York Daily News's "10 Books for Your Summer Reading List" 

    Women's National Book Association, "Great Group Reads 2015"  

    An Indie Next Pick 

     

    Dietland completely blew me away. It's audacious and gutsy and heartbreaking and I want to grab women on the street and shake them until they promise to read it—and also buy copies for their daughters.” —Jennifer Weiner, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Good In Bed, In Her Shoes, and others 

     

    “Walker’s first novel leaves chick lit in the pixie dust, treading the rougher terrain of radical critique and shadowy conspiracies — territory closer to Rachel Kushner than Helen Fielding.”—New York Magazine, One of Vulture's "8 Books You Need to Read This May" 

     

    "If Amy Schumer turned her subversive feminist sketches into a novel, dark on the inside but coated with a glossy, palatable sheen, it would probably look a lot like Dietland—a thrilling, incendiary manifesto disguised as a beach read...It’s a giddy revenge fantasy that will shake up your thinking and burrow under your skin, no matter its size."—Entertainment Weekly (Grade: A) 

     

    “I've never dropped anyone out of a helicopter. But Dietland resonated with the part of me that wants, just once, to deck a street harasser. At the very least, I wish an incurable itch upon everyone who has catcalled me on the street. I wish food poisoning and public embarrassment on everyone I've heard make a rape joke. I wish toothache and headlice and too-small shoes upon every stranger who has told me to smile. Which is to say, sometimes I forget I'm angry, but I am. Dietland is a complicated, thoughtful, and powerful expression of that same anger.”—Annalisa Quinn, NPR.org 

     

    “Plum Kettle, a ghostwriter for a popular teen mag, is lured into a subversive sisterhood in this riotous first novel. Finally, the feminist murder mystery/makeover story we’ve been waiting for.”—O, The Oprah Magazine, One of "10 Titles to Pick Up Now" 

     

    "A delightful, page-turning thriller that's also a feminist revenge fantasy. I tore through it in about two days—it is amazingly accessible while still being whip-smart, and it deals with timely issues without feeling like a lame Law & Order 'ripped from the headlines' stunt."——Jessica Grose, Lenny Letter

    "[Ms. Walker's] writing can spit with venom, at the rigid expectations of women’s weight and sexuality...As a social commentary, Dietland is no shrill tirade. Ms. Walker captures the misery of failing to fit in, to fit into the right clothes, to fit in with the right people and their expectations."—The Economist

    "At 300 lbs., Plum Kettle lives for the days when gastric bypass will help her shed her extra girth—until she's challenged to shed her misery instead. Witty and wise."—People  

     

    "Extraordinary…Walker skewers the diet industry and many other realities of the misogynistic world we live in...The world needed this novel; it’s a breath of fresh air to feminist literature with a nod to dystopian lit but a lot of contemporary flair… altogether different, fiercely political yet stylistically unique and readable...It’s a very well-rounded, emotionally rich tale… Plum is a character who will stay with me, and that’s no small thing.”Charlotte Hammond and Trilby Beresford, Amy Poehler's Smart Girls 

     

    "The anti-beach read, this spiky, funny book skewers the beauty industry and the first world's weight-loss obsession. The story revolves around constantly hungry ghostwriter Plum, who gets involved in an underground feminist group that challenges her world view. It's wonderfully unapologetic, off-beat and a lot of fun."—Elle UK  

     

    “Sarai Walker deftly marries body insecurities and humor in her satirical debut. At 300 pounds, Plum declares a diet fail and concedes to weight-loss surgery. But when she meets a radical feminist, she begins to try on confidence for size.”—US Weekly 

     

    "Fight Club meets Margaret Atwood in this absorbing thriller that weighs the expectations of society against one's own self-worth."—Bustle, "2015’s 25 Best Books, Fiction Edition" 

     

    “An incredibly smart novel that will make you think about the society we live in and how desperately we women want to be thinner, to be smaller, to disappear.”—PopSugar 

     

    "The biggest flaw I see in Dietland is that the people who most need to read it never will."—Karen Sandstrom, Cleveland.com 

     

    “[Dietland’s] message resonates…It’s vanishingly rare to see a novel that looks like the much-maligned ‘chick lit’ – and sometimes reads like it – so gleefully censorious of rape culture… If you’ve lived in this culture – if you’ve ever been a young woman who is trying to eat so little or eat so much that she disappears…you may take some cold comfort from Dietland, and its opportunities for vicarious revenge.”—The Guardian 

     

    "In this slyly subversive feminist novel, 300-pound Plum plans to get her stomach stapled until a mysterious group of women convinces her otherwise — just as a militant, anonymous band of vigilantes called “Jennifer” begins wreaking havoc on bad men — dropping rapists from planes, blackmailing CEOs of exploitative newspapers — and inspiring regular ladies to do the same. Word of warning: While you may be inclined to try this at home, it’s probably better left in Walker’s competent hands and on her incendiary pages for now." —Entertainment Weekly, "10 Best Books of 2015" 

     

    "A tale teeming with both sarcasm and honesty...Dietland transports readers to the front lines of the diet wars—a place where body positivity and a gratifying read are guaranteed."—BUST 

     

    "Read [Dietland] not only because it’s smart and timely, but because it’s heartbreaking and tragic and very very comic (as long as you like your laughs dark) and because it will guar...

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