Fat Girl: A True Story

How about this jacket blurb by Anne Lamott to launch your memoir, “God I love this book. It is wise, funny, painful, revealing and profoundly honest.” Although Judith Moore makes it abundantly clear that she doesn’t want readers’ pity, I also found Fat Girl profoundly sad.

Moore writes about her emotionally and physically abusive mother who dumped her with her maternal grandmother after divorcing her “corpulent” father—a father she could have bonded with, a father who wrote her everyday after she met with him as an adult at her husband’s insistence. But the bonding never happened because, she said, he could not measure up to her fantasies of a movie-star caliber dad. Nor, she said, could her mother when she was finally retrieved from the grandmother, a self-sufficient Arkansas farmer, who was also verbally abusive. But the farm segment reads more like a blanket indictment of farm life. From my “backcountry” point of view, I must say I lived on my grandparents’ farm from my earliest memory to age six. We didn’t have hogs, but I helped pluck freshly killed chicken for Sunday dinners, and have mostly warm and fuzzy memories of those halcyon days.

Fat Girl is the tale of a friendless and painfully lonely child who fantasizes about being adopted by virtually anyone who shows her any kindness, to the point of going into her pastor’s home when she knew no one would be there, going through the family’s things and eating their food, not just once but at least ten times, a gambit for trying on her imagined life.

Memoirist Scott M. Morris said, “We write to reclaim a part of our life, but it has to be about the art.” How do you reclaim a missed childhood? Moore did not outgrow her weight problems although she did get thin, briefly, once or twice as a young adult. In her own words Moore says, “I hate myself. I have always hated myself . . . because I am fat,” still missing out on her life, except for food. Her descriptions of food are so sensuous she could no doubt write an x-rated cookbook.

Nobody disputes Judith Moore’s writing talent. But Amazon reviewers generally rated her story on a scale somewhere between “dehumanizing” and “horrifying” with the exception of admittedly corpulent reviewers who generally loved it. Fat Girl averages 3.5 stars with more than a hundred and twenty reviews.

Given the sensitivity of most writers, will Moore’s proclaimed self-hatred inure her to the scathing reviews? Or will scathing reviews justify every word she has written?

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