Dietland Sarai Walker

Dietland by Sarai Walker

Dietland by Sarai WalkerDietland by Sarai Walker
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on May 26th 2015
Source: Publisher
Pages: 272
Buy from IndieBound


Though her job answering advice letters for a popular teen magazine is one many would envy, Plum Kettle is living her life for the future. At three hundred pounds, she does her best to stay invisible and counts the days until a weight-loss surgery will allow her real life to begin. But just before Plum’s day arrives, she meets a group of women who begin to change her perspective and show her just how restrictive her ideal body could be.

“We’re told not to go out by ourselves late at night, not to dress a certain way, not to talk to male strangers, not to lead men on. We take self-defense classes, keep our doors locked, carry pepper spray and rape whistles. The fear of men is ingrained in us from girlhood. Isn’t that a form of terrorism?”

A character who learns to accept who she is, even though she isn’t thin? Feminists who refuse to follow the expectations set by mainstream culture and a vigilante group aimed at justice for women? This is a novel meant to stir up much needed conversation, though it will certainly be polarizing. You can almost hear a refrain of “she was asking for it” in these comments on NPR, proving nearly every point Dietland aims to make: women can only exist in a pre-defined space.

Though the last quarter of the novel feels a little untidy, in that several possible endpoints seem to take away from the impact of the final scenes, Dietland is absolutely worth reading. Sarai Walker turns conventions on their head, which throw the reader completely off mark in amazing ways, while also getting to the honest truth of what it means to be a woman under the gaze of modern society.


  • You know, usually I don’t read contemporary fiction unless it’s written by an author I love, but I love thought-provoking reads. This sounds like my cup of coffee as far as feminist lit goes.
    Great review Shannon!
    ~Litha Nelle

  • Judging by the comments on NPR this is a good book to get people talking (although insulting and inappropriate comments are not helpful). Great review , Shannon! I am now very curious…

  • I’m not going to lie, the cover of this was kind of a turn off, but your description makes me want to pick it up!

  • Kay

    Interesting. Plan to take a look at this one.

  • Amanda

    I’m still trying to find the words to review this book – and still thinking about Plum. The comments on that NPR story are getting crazy! Great post!

  • I’m so happy to read your review of this one, Shannon; I was really interested in it before and now I am definitely going to have to read it. Great review!

  • Adding another one to the pile. You’re on a roll Shannon dear! This sounds completely not what I was expecting and therefore awesome.

  • Jesus, the comments at NPR are even worse than I was imagining they’d be. See! This! This is why I never ever read the comments sections!

  • Books that turn conventions on their head are so my thing. I hate the status quo, the midline, the “everyone else does it so why shouldn’t I?”. The “I was raised like this so I couldn’t possibly change my mind even when given new information and experiences.” I am reading I Am Not a Slut right now and she has a lot to say about how females have to be put into one of two boxes – the virgin or the slut. She also has a lot to say about the anonymity of internet bullies and how that creates more bullies and jerks than ever before. So true.

  • It’s a good pull quote that you pick from the book. Like it

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  • This is one of those books that I want to read so that I can recommend it to my book club. It does sound like it would start a great discussion!

  • I was so pleasantly surprised by this book. The “overweight woman working for a NYC teen magazine” could have been so shallow and predictable, but I love that it turned into a kind of feminist Fight Club. (But I’m glad I’m not the only one who thought it came a little bit unraveled toward the end.)

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