Dietland - Sarai Walker * I received this as a free eBook from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. *

Alicia (Plum) Kettle was a chubby child, a heavy adolescent and now as an adult she tips the scales at the 300-pound mark. She is convinced that Plum is not the “real her” and that “thin Alicia”, living inside her, needs to be released. Having, unsuccessfully, tried all kinds of conventional and not-so-conventional ways to shed the extra weight Plum has scheduled a bariatric-bypass procedure and only has one month more to wait.

She doesn’t know it yet but it is going to be a heck of a month.

While sitting in her favorite coffee shop answering Dear Abby type letters from teenage girls – Plum’s job is to do this anonymously for a popular teen magazine – she notices that she is being following by a rather unusual looking young woman. Never one for confrontation, Plum never the less does feel the need to confront her and this is the beginning of her adventures. When Leeta, the stalker, leaves a book called “Dietland” which debunks Plum’s favorite, and now defunct, diet plan from her younger days, Plum knows this is no random stalking. Through an unusual happenstance related to the book Plum finds herself living in a house full of diverse women who accept themselves as they are and try to teach Plum to do the same. Can she give up the dream of allowing her “inner Alicia” to come to the surface?

That’s the synopsis of the book I was expecting to read. It’s all there in the book so I was not disappointed; in fact I enjoyed it very much. It was very honest, poignant and often-humorous portrayal of what it is like being overweight in a “skinny” world. But woven into Plum’s story is a secondary story that starts with the rape and consequent suicide of a young girl, which leads a group of vigilante women to undertake a deadly hate campaign against men who they feel are victimizing women. Re-enter Leeta, who draws Plum into the peripherals of this group calling itself “Jennifer”.

There were so many aspects in the “Plum storyline” that I absolutely loved … both to do with Plum herself and her weight loss trial and tribulations. There were so many aspects in the “vigilante storyline” that I found disturbingly true. That story line tackles so many serious issues that need to be brought to people’s attention such as fat shaming, objectifying women, violence against women and the unspoken acceptance of those things as “that’s just the way it is”.

Do the two storylines work together? Surprisingly Ms. Walker did make them work.

Will everyone who reads this book enjoy it? Probably not, but I believe it will lead to some lively thought-provoking discussion, so it would be an excellent book club selection.

I was hemming and hawing about how to rate this book. I wanted to give it four stars because it made me think and I like that in a book, it made me laugh sometimes and it broke my heart at other times and I like that in a book too. After mulling the book over for a couple of days I decided there were some definite flaws mostly to do with the characters. I know I could have done without some of them while wishing that others were a little more fleshed out. I’m going to settle on three stars, but don’t let that deter anyone from picking up this book, Dietland is definitely one of those “You-gotta-make-up-your-own-mind” kind of books.