Looking at Mona Awad’s first novel

20161023_200816What I read

13 Ways of Looking At a Fat Girl by Mona Awad

What it’s about

Set in Misery Saga (Mississauga, Ontario), this book follows Lizzie (aka Liz, Beth, Elizabeth) through her teenage years to adulthood as she struggles with her weight. We get thirteen different stories, thirteen glimpses of Lizzie at a different stage in her life, that explore her relationship with her body, her friends and her mother. We see Lizzie as a fat girl and then as a woman who has succeeded in losing the weight but who continues to struggle with how she sees food and her body. This book explores themes of body image, girlhood and relationships of all different kinds.

Why I picked it up

While I haven’t been making a conscious effort to read the titles on this year’s Giller Prize shortlist, this is the third of the six titles I’ve read. But I’ve actually wanted to read this book for a while. As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, I really enjoy coming-of-age stories, and I’ve also been reading a lot of Canadian literature this year. I’ll also admit that the allusion in this title to Wallace Stevens’ poem “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” caught my attention. Anyway, after being on my TBR list for several months, I picked up a copy a few weeks ago.

What I liked about it

The structure. This novel composed of thirteen interconnected stories works very well. Each piece works as a standalone story, offering profound moments in Lizzie’s life. Reading them together as a novel provides us with a strong sense of Lizzie throughout her life, having each story build on the next, letting us see how each of these moments affects her later in life.

Awad has done an excellent job with voice and tone in this book, too. Lizzie is relatable in all thirteen stories, as a teen and as an adult. And while there is humour in this book and plenty of funny moments, Awad also doesn’t hold back, confronting some serious subject matter that can at times be uncomfortable.

You’ll want to read it if…

Fans of short stories or lovers or coming-of-age tales will like this one. It’s even better if you like both of those genres.

Recommended refreshments

It will come as no surprise that food is mentioned  a lot in this book. What immediately comes to mind is all the salad mentioned in this book, but it hasn’t made me crave any of it. I can also strongly see Lizzie’s French fries served with ketchup and mayonnaise, but I don’t find that image very appetizing. But the squares of dark chocolate Lizzie allows herself do sound good. So I recommend a bit of chocolate…and, of course, a cup of tea.

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2 thoughts on “Looking at Mona Awad’s first novel

  1. I enjoy your reviews, Nicky. Need to take a look at your back catalogue a bit as I have been a bit snowed under at work. I have hit on a few good reads lately, some of them recommendations from my book club comrades. Hill Billy Elegy is an interesting memoir and timely social commentary on the U.S. Now I am on to a book about a shepherd in the UK lake district. Cheers. Ian

    • Thanks, Ian! It’s nice to hear you like the reviews. I think I know that second book you’ve mentioned; I believe you’re talking about The Shepherd’s Life, which I read a little while ago. I mostly stick to fiction, but I do enjoy reading memoir as well. It’s probably my second favourite genre. Happy reading!

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