Wally Lamb's She's Come Undone

I finished this book yesterday, after having it reccomended to me by three people.

All I have to say about this lovely book everyone’s falling all over is…

Lamb, you are a tool.

According to you, I should be ridiculed constantly, have my college roomates move out because I’m just too fat, I shouldn’t fit into a normal desk, and I shouldn’t be able to wear normal clothes/walk more than a few blocks without getting winded.

I realize that I may be a little sensative to this. However, I think any intelligent person reading the book would think it ridiculous that he would portray an overweight girl being seen as a freak of nature!

I weigh as much as she does in the book. I’m taller, 5’9, but you can tell I’m fat. Yep, Fat. I can say the word without breaking down and crying, without killing fish(yes, I do realize this is partly because of her past). I can BE fat and function, I can BE fat and have friends. I can be fat all I want, all over town, and I have never had somone yell out of a car at me.

I guess I may be the only person who reacted to the book this way, but I really did have to get it out. I did think some parts of the book were interesting, and Lamb does write convincingly as a woman in some spots.

Oh well! Rant over, I’m spent. :stuck_out_tongue:


Well, that was bizzare. I read that book. The heroine is fat. She’s also malladjusted, a rape survivor, the product of a broken home, motherless, bullied at school, and subject to the advances of a sexual predator.

And you think her trying to kill herself is because she’s FAT?!?!?!

I’m kinda thinking this is YOUR issue, and doesn’t have much to do with the book at all.

That’s just my 2 cents.

It’s been a few years since I read the book, but here’s my 2 cents also. The girl was seriously disturbed, and her fatness was only a very small part of her problems. I don’t remember that she was seen as a freak of nature because of her weight, so much as she felt like a freak of nature overall, and the things that she experienced were all from her perspective.

You sound like a confident person who is comfortable with your own body. Perhaps that’s why you haven’t experienced any of the sorts of ugliness described in the book. I know that people who are obese are often treated cruelly, but one who is already been victimized might find cruelty where one who is confident wouldn’t.

BTW, I wouldn’t have recommended the book. I found it weird and disturbing. Not my sort of book at all.

It also bothered me on many levels. It’s also not on my “recommend to friends” list. It could be an inate sensitivity to the “fat” issue but I also found it to be wrong, wrong, wrong. Yes, this girl was seriously disturbed, but I found the book hit just a little too close to home. Totally creeped me out.

I’m going to have to side with wdcsmwscaa on this one. I read the book and I remember being mightily pissed off at Wally Lamb. It’s not that his title character doesn’t have just cause to be as emotionally disturbed as she was. The things that pissed me off were the obviously clueless nature of Lamb about things that fat people were (or were not, as the case may be) capable of. It’s been a year or so since I read the book and things that stick out at me are scenes where he has the girl being barely able to fit in a VW Beetle, being unable to get up off of the ground at a picnic, etc.

This perception goes back to what I’ve always told my friends, which is that thin people have no idea what fat people weigh. I’ve seen it in more books that I can count where the author describs an “obese” person as 180 pounds. I can absolutely guarantee that the author truly has no clue what a 180 lb woman looks like. It was the same with Wally Lamb. He picked this number that he felt was huge and applied it to his main character and then attributed problems to her that didn’t realistically correspond with the weight he was claiming for his character.

I think that’s what wdcsmwscaa is pissed of about here. Not that anyone could be mean to the character because she was fat, but because it was obvious that Lamb had no clue what being fat was really like.

She was only 180 pounds? I guess that never struck me. No, I doubt anyone could consider that obese, nor should that weight range create the kinds of physical problems described (unless she was really short).

Would you have had the same reaction if Wally Lamb had described her weight as 280 pounds, and left the rest of the story the same?

Just curious. I’m certainly not skinny, but have never been more than a little chunky, either, so I haven’t experienced any of the issues described, either.

No, I was speaking of other authors when I quoted the 180 lb figure. But even at 250 lbs (which is about where Lamb’s character was, I think), the sorts of difficulties that he was attributing to her even at that weight weren’t realistic, and I knew it because I’ve been that weight. It was clear to me that Lamb not only had never been heavy, he didn’t have a proper perception of what people who started having those sorts of effects from their weight corresponded to in numbers.

Like I said, thin people generally have no idea what fat people weigh. The mindset that I come across time and again is that 200 is some mythical barrier beyond which anyone over that weight can do nothing except waddle from the sofa to the fridge. This is clearly the realm of experience that Lamb was coming from.

I’ve been just about every weight on the scale’s dial and I can tell you that plenty of people consider 180 pounds hugely overweight. Even heard a couple of young women discussing how they’d rather be dead than weigh as much as the ‘disgusting pig’ a couple of tables away. The woman in question couldn’t have been more than 160 lbs and their views regarding weight were not unique, let me tell you. Having been heavy and then back to a normal weight range, I’ve had the opportunity to experience how a woman in both situations is treated. I’ve had guys whistle at me when my weight was down and had them throw trash at me when my weight was up. I’ve been ignored in stores, treated as though I were contagious at social events, you name it, crap happens to you because of your weight and it takes incredible strength to cope, never mind be secure or happy. After a while I felt like hell mentally and physically, they fed into each other, so to speak.

Mr. Lamb may not have been 100% accurate regarding such things as fitting into a VW, but the majority of it was very close, if not painfully spot on. I cut him some slack since nobody would have pried my accurate weight out of me, especially if it were research for a book. As for getting up off the ground, I had a friend who probably weighed about 200 lbs at the time and couldn’t get up by herself. Since she carries her weight mainly around her middle and isn’t terribly strong, she was stuck for a hand up unless she had a chair to climb onto.

Interesting to note that it makes a difference where you live. I’m near Mexico and overweight women are much more accepted aound here. I’m still surprised to hear someone called by the genuinely affectionate nickname Gorda/o, literally Fatso!

A much better novel featuring a woman who doesn’t fit society’s ideals is Jennifer Weiner’s Good In Bed. I hate to hijack, but that book was so marvelous I feel the need to recommend it to everyone.

It’s been a few years since I’ve read She’s Come Undone, but I remember finding it moving. I’ve never been really overweight so I kind of took Lamb’s POV on faith; I thought the story was touching, but the book overall was, as several others have observed, kind of disturbing.

Very true. This is why so many heroines in books are 5’3" and 105 pounds. 'cause that’s a typical weight, you know. :rolleyes:

However I didn’t see the girl’s problems being so much related to her actual weight, but her state of mind. She had trouble doing simple things because she thought she ought to, given how “fat” she was. Since she thought she was a baby whale at one point, I don’t think it’s too far fetched to believe that a lot of her problems were caused by her mental state rather than her actual physical problems.

Well, I have to ask-how tall was the character? Because I’m 5ft3 and I think that I would be overweight at 180 lbs. It wouldn’t work on my frame.

I read the book when it was featured on QPB an age or more ago. My main thought is that there’s no substitute for plot. The book’s more like a ride on the arc of a normal, if weird, life. There’s never really any dramatic buildup; she just goes through what she goes through, eventually comes out somewhere halfway decent, and Lamb ends the book there just because the book was long enough to call it done, I guess. I give him decent marks for verisimilitude, but it was about as interesting as a book of my life so far would be, and I wouldn’t run out and buy such a book.

It really depends on your frame. I’m 6’1 and around 220lbs. I could probably stand to lose another 20 but my proper weight range is supposed to be about 160-180. I am big boned though and at 180 I’m pretty sure I’d start to look too thin. Even at 220 most of my weight is muscle, and parts of me are as thin as I’ll ever get without looking emancipated.

Exactly. If I went up to 180, I’d be overweight.

emancipated: Not a slave.
emaciated: Not being fed.

Really. It’s grating. Lincoln didn’t want the Confederate slaves to be bony and sickly.

I wandered into this thread thinking it would be about a really crappy song. I’ll wander out now.

Damned if I know which song you could be talking about, Derleth! :wink: I don’t know of any crappy songs by that name; on the other hand, there’s a pretty good Guess Who song (titled “Undun”, btw) whose inclusion at the end of the book (let alone its use in the book title) makes as much sense to me as attaching a propeller beanie to the roof of a Hummvee.

Sorry. Get those mixed up sometimes.

I remember hating the book but I don’t remember exactly why. I think I just lost interest in a character that was so pathetic.

I was going to point out what Guin did - weights don’t mean anything without considering height. I weigh 150, which shocks people because I’m thin. People usually guess 130. If I weighed that, I’d look like one of those emaciated models.

Thanks Jadis.

I suppose my mini-rant there was terribly incoherent–let me clarify.

Yes, I am a bit sensitive to the weight issue. However, Lamb, a rather thin man, has no basis to write from the perspective of a fat woman.

He makes it seem impossible for an overweight person to do anything ‘normally’, much less function in society.

My MAIN gripe with the book is that Lamb doesn’t know what he’s talking about! I’m sure some people are incredibly biased agaisnt weight, to the point where they would make more-than-rude remarks. But I draw the line at having your college roomate’s parents refuse to pay tuition if you have to share a room with a fat kid.

I realize that alot of her problems have to do with her past, but the parts of the story revolve around her weight. She gets unhappy, binges, gets fat, lives unhappy. Gets thin, (and therapy), lives vaugely unhappily, then meets the Man of Her Dreams and lives happily (mostly) ever after. I know the argument will be made that this is directly related to her therapy and the healing process, but I Don’t think that weight should have factored into it so much.

elfkin447–Surely you see the connection between “whale” and “fat”? Maybe I’m reading into it too much, but I think the fact she connected with the whale had something to do with her weight.

I have had serious emotional problems stemming from my weight-- I do know how if feels. It didn’t take getting skinny to ‘cure’ me however, it took a few good friends to remind me how much they loved me. Admittedly, I do not come from the same backround as the main character.

BadBaby I’ve had those experiences too-- I know the pain. My gripe isn’t necessarily how people reacted to her, but how Lamb acted as if everyone but other people who were overweight and the hippies she came in contant with would treat her like that.
I don’t have the book with me now-- I had borrowed it from a friend. but I will try to get passages that really ticked me off…Maybe it’s unreasonable, but hey. This is the Pit after all.

Nitpick: It was the roommate who objected. Her parents told her to deal with it, as did the dorm advisor. And believe me, there are uppity, not-too-bright 18-year-olds who would be that way.