Review: Big Brother
Ah, Lionel Shriver. A Reader's Respite just loves Lionel Shriver. Few authors can consistently put forth such book club-worthy novels addressing a myriad of social ills while forcing readers to examine their own roles within their families, their communities and the world at large. Shriver makes us think. Makes us uncomfortable. Makes us question. Seriously, we still haven't entirely recovered from the emotional trauma we suffered at this woman's hands after We Need to Talk About Kevin.
Her latest effort, Big Brother, might well be one of her finest efforts to date. When Pandora, married and settling comfortably into middle age, learns that her erstwhile, jazz pianist older brother is flying into town for a long-overdue visit, she is thrilled. Four years, after all, is a long time between visits. But when she arrives at the Cedar Rapids airport to pick up Edison, she is shocked. Her suave, handsome, urbane brother has gained hundreds of pounds.
Grappling with the shock of seeing her brother in such a condition, Pandora is further astounded to find that Edison is not merely paying a visit. Homeless, jobless, and without a penny to his name, Edison has come to stay.
Shriver delivers two distinct themes in this novel. First and foremost is the question of our obligations towards family. What are the limitations of that obligation? How much is one required to sacrifice for our siblings, parents, children? Secondly, Shriver explores the social issue of obesity, including the inevitable and lamentable prejudices that accompany a person's physical appearance. If you think you hold no preconceived notions on body-type, Shriver will prove you absolutely wrong in Big Brother.
The story is told with biting insight and sharp wit and despite her propensity to use a $10 word when a $1 word would suffice just as well, the plot moves at a pretty good clip (we devoured the entire novel in two days). And the BIG TWIST at the end? Well played, Ms. Shriver, well played.
Book clubs? Enjoy. You'll be talking about this one all summer.
Title: Big Brother
Author: Lionel Shriver
Publisher: Harper Collins
Source: Advanced Copy courtesy of Harper Collins
Rating: As close to 5 stars as one can get. Oh hells, let's call it 5 stars. We luv'd it.