Alternate Beauty [NOOK Book]

Overview

She couldn’t change the way the world looked at her, so she changed the world.…

Ronnie Tremayne is a big girl with big dreams: she wants to be a fashion designer. But as her model-thin mother never fails to remind her, in fashion, image is everything—and Ronnie is a size 28. When she learns that her job managing a plus-size boutique is in jeopardy because her weight is “disturbing” to the clientele, Ronnie loses control. After a late-night ...

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Alternate Beauty

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Overview

She couldn’t change the way the world looked at her, so she changed the world.…

Ronnie Tremayne is a big girl with big dreams: she wants to be a fashion designer. But as her model-thin mother never fails to remind her, in fashion, image is everything—and Ronnie is a size 28. When she learns that her job managing a plus-size boutique is in jeopardy because her weight is “disturbing” to the clientele, Ronnie loses control. After a late-night binge, she dozes off wishing for a world where fat is beautiful. When she awakens the next morning…it is.

Now the ideal woman, Ronnie is thrust into the spotlight. She attends the best parties. She has her mother’s approval. Her boss invests in her clothing line. And the men! But as her appetite for life grows, Ronnie’s appetite for food shrinks. She soon becomes unrecognizable—inside and out. And while navigating the giddy highs and miserable lows of this so-called perfect world, Ronnie discovers what she should have known all along: it’s not the size of your body that matters, but the size of your heart.

Wise, witty, and compassionate, this stunning debut novel speaks to anyone who has ever engaged in the battle of the bulge—or the exasperatingly elusive pursuit of perfection.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“A warm, wise, bittersweet book, brimming with powerful insight and understanding—a must for any woman who has ever dieted or obsessed about her body image—which is basically every woman in the Western world.” —Sue Margolis, author of Breakfast at Stephanie’s
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780553901788
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 7/26/2005
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 538,752
  • File size: 439 KB

Meet the Author

Andrea Rains Waggener left a career in law to pursue a career in writing. She is now a writer of fiction and nonfiction. Her book Healthy, Wealthy, & Wise--52 Life-Changing Lessons for the 21st Century comes out in February 2005 from Hazeldon. Her weekly newspaper column, "The Up Beat"--which appears in The Daily World in Aberdeen, Washington--has inspired people for over five years to live an upbeat life. She has also struggled with the weight issue herself, ranging in her adult life from a size 8 to a size 26. (She is currently a size 12.) She lives with her husband and dog near the coast in Washington State.
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

At noon on a Tuesday in early April, I hesitated in the stark archway separating the lobby from the muted dining room of one of Seattle's downtown, upscale restaurants. Pale white silk-textured walls relieved only by shining mahogany chair rails enclosed a roomful of identical tables that held gleaming white, gold-rimmed plates and polished silverware, spotless stemmed glasses, and napkins folded like little tents—all placed just so. I sighed and scanned the room.

Why did I say yes? I hated being away from the shop during the busy lunch hour. But when Audrey called, the called rushed forth.

A hum of polite conversation ebbed and flowed around me, accentuated by the irregular tinkling of silverware against china. The civilized aroma of butter and basil drifted my way. I swallowed the saliva that came unbidden, like I was some distant relation to one of Pavlov's dogs.

I spotted Audrey seated at a table in the middle of the room. Her tailored cream crepe pantsuit blended nicely with the room's decor. Of course. She was holding court to a couple of men standing next to her table; both wore ubiquitous gray European-cut suits.

I headed toward my mother. My high heels sank into the ridiculously thick emerald carpet, making it difficult to keep my balance. My normal ponderous waddle became a graceless lurch. Struggling to maintain some dignity, I lifted my chin. But I was aware of the futility of my upright bearing.

I stopped at the right side of the nearest suited man. Glancing at Audrey, I noted the pucker between her perfectly arched brows as she inspected me. I adjusted the skirt of my teal linen suit and made sure my silk blouse wasn't gapping open.

"Tell Charlene I'm thinking of her," Audrey said, turning toward the second man. She reached for his hand with her slender mauve-tipped fingers and squeezed it—grace and warmth in concert. "If there's anything I can do for either of you, let me know."

The two men murmured good-bye and moved on, ignoring me.

"Veronica, dear." Audrey's voice was low and even. She'd waited until the men were on the far side of the dining room before greeting me.

"Hey," I said, gripping the table edge and lowering myself into a straight-backed chair. It was ridiculously small—just another example of rampant fat bias.

I love myself exactly as I am, I repeated several times silently in my head. My gaze roamed over the menu, lingered on the French Dip and the Broiled Crab and Cheese sandwiches and went obediently to the salads.

"I will have a small green salad, please," Audrey told the waiter. "With oil and vinegar on the side."
I sighed and pictured the Butterfingers I had stashed in my desk drawer back at the shop. "Same for me."

Audrey nodded. Her frosted blond pageboy didn't move. "I am pleased to see you working on your diet, dear."

I shot a glance at the hovering waiter and remained silent. The only thing I was working on was remaining sane for the duration of the lunch.

I flicked my gaze over Audrey. Beyond slender, bordering on bony, she looked like she'd been cut out with sharp scissors. By contrast, I looked like I'd been sketched in with pastel chalk, all soft edges and smudgy.

Her face was a collection of angles—flat forehead, high, prominent cheekbones, a triangular nose. She had wide-set eyes capped by aggressively plucked brows in an inverted V. Of course, her skin was perfect, nearly unlined—the result of a myriad of creams, lotions, and other potions and the services of a talented dermatologist and an even more talented plastic surgeon.

"I had an unsettling conversation with Cheryl Landing yesterday," Audrey said, stroking her smooth neck.

Though Cheryl was in one of my mother's women's groups, I wasn't aware they were more than simple acquaintances. But, then, they moved in the same wealthy circles where simple acquaintances called each other "friends," gave each other fake little kisses, and gossiped about their other "friends."

"Yeah?" I said.

"The conversation was about you—and it was not, I am sorry to say, positive."

I shifted my weight on the tiny chair. I had just spoken to Cheryl that morning. She'd popped in at Luscious Landing Large Women's Clothing Boutique, as she often did between her charity activities, to check out how business was doing in the shop she owned. That morning, Cheryl had again waxed eloquent on what a positive impact Oprah Winfrey's self-love techniques were having in her battle of the bulge, but she hadn't indicated she had a problem with me. What could she possibly have talked to Audrey about?

"What about me?"

Audrey's forehead furrowed briefly, and her eyelids slid downward. It was her sympathetic look. I'd seen it often enough. Audrey genuinely cared about people, especially people who were debilitated in some way. But she was conflicted about me. Fat, in her eyes, was debilitating, but her patience with my "refusal to live up to potential" had long since worn thin. Witness the tightness around her collagen-enhanced lips.

The waiter set two tiny plates of greens on the table without once looking at me. My stomach growled. The prominent green was endive. I hate endive. I accept myself unconditionally, I told myself, using yet another of Oprah's self-love affirmations I'd learned from her show.
I lifted my gaze from the offensive vegetable.

"I think this is going to be a positive experience for you, dear," Audrey said. She leaned forward, touched my hand for a mere instant. There it was again. That disapproving sympathy.

"What is?"

Audrey positioned her plate precisely equidistant between her fork and knife, then rotated it so the spray of fancy-cut cucumber slices were at the back edge. Aesthetics were important to Audrey.
Which is why my fat offended her so much.

After placing her plate just so, Audrey took a long moment to drizzle a thin line of oil over her salad and shake a liberal sprinkling of vinegar after that. When she finished, I used the oil and vinegar, in reverse proportions.

"Cheryl thinks you have gotten too heavy to be an effective saleswoman," Audrey said.
I dropped my fork.

Audrey deliberately picked up hers. She speared an endive leaf. "She thinks your size is disturbing to the clientele."

"Disturbing to the . . . The clientele," I emphasized the word, "are fat women."

Audrey glanced around. "Lower your voice, dear."

I'd fallen down a rabbit hole. Surely I couldn't be hearing Audrey tell me my boss thought I was too fat to run a fat woman's dress shop. I voiced the thought aloud.

"Well, Cheryl seems to think the smaller, ah, large women are discouraged by your size. They find it depressing and might avoid the store because of it."

"You've got to be kidding."

"I am afraid not, dear. Cheryl was quite clear. She said if you cannot lose some weight—a significant amount, I believe—she will be forced to replace you."

I stabbed at my salad. For almost three years, I'd managed that shop. Profits were up more than 50 percent since I took over.

I accept myself as I . . . Oh, to hell with it. Not even the fat woman who owns the fat women's dress shop could accept me. Who was I kidding?

I don't remember what else Audrey and I talked about that day, and I don't much remember how I got through the rest of the day either. I'm sure the Butterfingers in my desk drawer played a significant role. I do remember it was difficult to be properly solicitous of my customers that afternoon. I kept wondering if any of the women I'd come to consider friends were the ones who had complained to Cheryl.

I tried calling her all afternoon. I left half a dozen messages, but she never returned my calls.
So I called Alanna and Bonnie, my best friends, to commiserate. They both agreed to meet me the next evening for a pig-out dinner. I'd have loved to have done it that evening, but I'd agreed to meet Gilbert for dinner, and I hated to break my word—to anyone.

Gilbert and I usually walked to dinner together. He owned and managed the men's shop next door to Luscious Landing. But he'd had business in Bellevue that day, and we'd agreed it made more sense to meet at the restaurant.

A blast of noise assaulted me as soon as I stepped through the heavy brass-handled door of the restaurant. The music coming from inside sounded like jazz rap, if there was such a thing, and everyone in the restaurant seemed to be shouting. I didn't want to be there. I wanted to be home. I was starving, and I knew I wasn't going to get enough food in the damn place.

A brass railing divided the packed lobby from an even more crowded bar. Young men and women dressed in business suits jostled past me. I felt like I'd stepped into a teeming bat cave. The walls were gray with speckles of red, the furniture black. The odor of sweat couldn't mask the heavy aroma of basil. What was it with restaurants and basil? Could the chefs think of no other spices?
I worked my way through the crowd, shoving aside the eager, beautiful people with my broad hips. Who said there weren't advantages to being fat?

About ten feet from the door, I broke through the pack and encountered a huge black marble podium with a brass lamp poised on its edge. A blond woman with a flat stomach and slender hips, poured into a size four, if that, little black dress, posed delicately beside the black monolith.

"Dinner for one, ma'am?"

I spotted Gilbert on the far side of the bar. "I'm meeting someone."

The woman nodded.

Ma'am, I thought. I straightened my shoulders and did my best to lumber with dignity across the space between the restaurant lobby and the bar.

I worked my way through the cramped tables and chairs in the bar. My thigh bumped into a table and sloshed beer. "Sorry," I said.

The man at the table looked up at me, his eyes blank, then looked away.

I knocked a purse off the back of a chair with my hips. I hesitated, glanced around. No room to bend over and pick the damn thing up. Not unless I wanted to bump into the person at the table behind me. Who needed the Three Stooges? I could provide all the comic relief these people needed. A swish of the hips here and down goes a purse, a jostle of the thigh there and over goes a cocktail glass. Here a spill, there a spill, everywhere a . . .

"Did you want something?" The woman whose chair I'd jostled glared up at me. She was a petite blonde with a pert pixie haircut and a pointed little chin.

"Your purse," I said, pointing to the ground.

The woman leaned over and picked it up, folding herself easily into the tight space. I moved on. I should have just let it lie there. But then I wouldn't have been able to stand it if someone had picked it up and made off with it.

I passed a table of four men, all drinking beer from long-neck bottles, all in shirtsleeves, their ties loosened, all good-looking. I smiled. Three of them looked at me. No, make that looked through me.
I can't say that was the worst part of being obese. But it wasn't pleasant. I was invisible to them. There was an irony. I took up more room than any of the women in the place and yet I was invisible.
I love myself as I am, I chanted in my head.

Ah, forget it. What did Oprah know? And what did Cheryl know, telling me how Oprah's shows had changed her life?

Damn Gilbert anyway. Why did he have to be all the way in the back?

When I finally reached him, Gilbert glanced up from a huge burgundy menu and smiled. The smile, as usual, revealed only his top two front teeth. God, he looks like a chipmunk, I thought, for the millionth time—this time with far less affection than usual.

"Hello, beautiful," he said.

I groaned and lowered myself into the black ladder-back chair opposite Gilbert. My thighs hung over the sides of the seat, the wood pressing into my legs. I shifted, seeking a comfortable position.
"How was your day?" Gilbert asked. He placed the menu on the black lacquered table, aligning the menu's bottom edge perfectly with the table's edge.

I cringed. "Peachy."

Gilbert reached across the table and took my hand. His fingers were limp and clammy. "Anything I can do?"

I pulled my hand away and picked up my menu. "Let's just eat."

Gilbert flashed me his chipmunk smile, patiently ignored my rudeness, and tapped his own menu. "The special is pork medallions in lemon basil sauce on a bed of rice."
Basil again. "Why not?" I said.

Once the food arrived, I dived into my puny helping with my fork while Gilbert picked up his spoon and his knife. Using the edge of the utensils, Gilbert separated all the food on his plate. The pork took up residence on the right side. The rice held its ground in the middle. The asparagus spears lined up on the far left. I wondered fleetingly whether he would attempt to separate the sauce into its own little pile. I also wondered, not for the first time, why he even bothered to order things that were served on top of other things.

I studied his face while he performed his food choreography. Gilbert wasn't exactly handsome. But then what would a handsome man be doing with me?

He wasn't bad-looking though. His face was soft, like a gingerbread boy baked with too much baking soda. He had a shallow forehead, no chin to speak of, and pouchy cheeks, reminding me of a chipmunk with a bounty of nuts stored away for later. The cheeks went with his toothy smile. His face always seemed unsettled, like it couldn't find itself. The only thing solid was his nose, quite a nice nose—straight and well shaped but looking out of place in its surroundings.

What I loved most about Gilbert's face, besides his nose, were his eyes. He had amazing eyes—dark forest green, intense and unusual, ringed in thick, bark-colored lashes.

I tried focusing on his eyes while he pushed his food around. We'd been dating for six months. Gilbert loved me. I supposed I loved him. I'd told him I did anyway. He was too good for me really. He had one of those positive attitudes and the kind of great self-esteem that would never need affirmations from the Oprah Winfrey Show. He knew his weaknesses, but he also knew his strengths. When I first met him and he told me I had caught his eye because of my beautiful auburn hair, I had laughed. I weighed nearly three hundred pounds, and he noticed my hair.

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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 26, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Jennifer Wardrip - Personal Read

    What is reality? Is it a tangible thing, the people, places, and things that are around us? Or is reality whatever we make it to be? I've always prescribed to the second theory, that you could change your reality by changing the way you look at life. What about an alternate reality? Is that simply other people looking at the world through different colored glasses, or an actual plain of existence different from the one we currently reside on? By reading the story of Veronica "Ronnie" Tremayne, the heroine of Andrea Rains Waggener's ALTERNATE BEAUTY, I discovered that it doesn't really matter one way or the other. <BR/><BR/>Ronnie is an overweight woman living in a world where women over the size of ten are looked down upon and ridiculed. You know the world I'm talking about-the one we're living in now. Ronnie, a size twenty-eight, has, in my opinion, a good life. She has a wonderful boyfriend, Gilbert, who, although not the smartest or most gregarious of men, has one wonderful thing going for him-he loves Ronnie for who she is, and her weight doesn't factor in to it. Ronnie also has a job at Luscious Landing Large Women's Clothing Boutique, where she's the manager. But over a lunch of-what else? Salad!-with her skinny mother, Ronnie discovers that the owner of the boutique, Cheryl, wants Ronnie to lose weight before she loses her job, because her overly-large size is disturbing some of their "smaller large" customers. <BR/><BR/>That night before bed, Ronnie makes a statement that will ultimately change her life. "Oprah's wrong. The key to happiness is living in a world where fat is beautiful." Thus begins Ronnie's trip into her alternate reality. <BR/><BR/>Suddenly, Ronnie's size twenty-eight is for the first time in her life an asset. This world Ronnie is in scorns thin women. The bigger the better, at least in this new reality, and for once, skinny women feel bad in her presence, and construction workers are whistling at her as she walks by. There's no Gilbert in this strange new world, but there are plenty of men who want to be with her, all nearly three-hundred-pounds of her, who can't get enough of her big, beautiful body. <BR/><BR/>Ronnie believes she's in heaven. For once, big is beautiful, and she has all the attention that she's ever wanted. Except now that she has what she wants, she can't seem to eat-and the glorious pounds that make her so desirable start dropping off. Now she's the object of disdain because she's losing weight instead of gaining it, and Ronnie begins to wonder if this reality is any better than the normal one. <BR/><BR/>Ms. Waggener has penned a fantasy romance that any woman, regardless of her size, will be able to appreciate. What woman doesn't have something about her body that she wishes she could change? It doesn't matter if you're a size eight or a size thirty, everyone has something that they don't like about themselves-or something that they fear others look down upon them for. ALTERNATE BEAUTY is a whimsical trip into the world of what-if, so settle in for an entertaining ride.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 23, 2007

    Originally Posted on Romance Junkies

    What is reality? Is it a tangible thing, the people, places, and things that are around us? Or is reality whatever we make it to be? I've always prescribed to the second theory, that you could change your reality by changing the way you look at life. What about an alternate reality? Is that simply other people looking at the world through different colored glasses, or an actual plain of existence different from the one we currently reside on? By reading the story of Veronica 'Ronnie' Tremayne, the heroine of Andrea Rains Waggener's ALTERNATE BEAUTY, I discovered that it doesn't really matter one way or the other. Ronnie is an overweight woman living in a world where women over the size of ten are looked down upon and ridiculed. You know the world I'm talking about-the one we're living in now. Ronnie, a size twenty-eight, has, in my opinion, a good life. She has a wonderful boyfriend, Gilbert, who, although not the smartest or most gregarious of men, has one wonderful thing going for him-he loves Ronnie for who she is, and her weight doesn't factor in to it. Ronnie also has a job at Luscious Landing Large Women's Clothing Boutique, where she's the manager. But over a lunch of-what else? Salad!-with her skinny mother, Ronnie discovers that the owner of the boutique, Cheryl, wants Ronnie to lose weight before she loses her job, because her overly-large size is disturbing some of their 'smaller large' customers. That night before bed, Ronnie makes a statement that will ultimately change her life. 'Oprah's wrong. The key to happiness is living in a world where fat is beautiful.' Thus begins Ronnie's trip into her alternate reality. Suddenly, Ronnie's size twenty-eight is for the first time in her life an asset. This world Ronnie is in scorns thin women. The bigger the better, at least in this new reality, and for once, skinny women feel bad in her presence, and construction workers are whistling at her as she walks by. There's no Gilbert in this strange new world, but there are plenty of men who want to be with her, all nearly three-hundred-pounds of her, who can't get enough of her big, beautiful body. Ronnie believes she's in heaven. For once, big is beautiful, and she has all the attention that she's ever wanted. Except now that she has what she wants, she can't seem to eat-and the glorious pounds that make her so desirable start dropping off. Now she's the object of disdain because she's losing weight instead of gaining it, and Ronnie begins to wonder if this reality is any better than the normal one. Ms. Waggener has penned a fantasy romance that any woman, regardless of her size, will be able to appreciate. What woman doesn't have something about her body that she wishes she could change? It doesn't matter if you're a size eight or a size thirty, everyone has something that they don't like about themselves-or something that they fear others look down upon them for. ALTERNATE BEAUTY is a whimsical trip into the world of what-if, so settle in for an entertaining ride.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 16, 2006

    It was ok...

    Although I stayed interested in the story throughout the book and it was an easy read I have to say it wasn't the best book I've ever read. The writing seemed choppy at times, and the story was (of course) a bit far fetched with some unanswered questions (i.e. what happened to Ronnie during 'the year'?) leaving the reader hanging at the end.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 18, 2005

    A book that will make you think

    Andrea Rains Waggener is an author who knows how to write in a way that truly allows the reader to 'feel' her written words. Her books are written in an honest and thoughtful way that challenges the reader to think. Alternate Beauty is a prime example and will leave the reader with food for thought for many days to come. I cannot recommend it highly enough, especially to readers who have had weight concerns or body image issues.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 5, 2005

    Courtesy of Romance Junkies

    What is reality? Is it a tangible thing, the people, places, and things that are around us? Or is reality whatever we make it to be? I¿ve always prescribed to the second theory, that you could change your reality by changing the way you look at life. What about an alternate reality? Is that simply other people looking at the world through different colored glasses, or an actual plain of existence different from the one we currently reside on? By reading the story of Veronica 'Ronnie' Tremayne, the heroine of Andrea Rains Waggener¿s ALTERNATE BEAUTY, I discovered that it doesn¿t really matter one way or the other. Ronnie is an overweight woman living in a world where women over the size of ten are looked down upon and ridiculed. You know the world I¿m talking about¿the one we¿re living in now. Ronnie, a size twenty-eight, has, in my opinion, a good life. She has a wonderful boyfriend, Gilbert, who, although not the smartest or most gregarious of men, has one wonderful thing going for him¿he loves Ronnie for who she is, and her weight doesn¿t factor in to it. Ronnie also has a job at Luscious Landing Large Women¿s Clothing Boutique, where she¿s the manager. But over a lunch of¿what else? Salad!¿with her skinny mother, Ronnie discovers that the owner of the boutique, Cheryl, wants Ronnie to lose weight before she loses her job, because her overly-large size is disturbing some of their 'smaller large' customers. That night before bed, Ronnie makes a statement that will ultimately change her life. 'Oprah¿s wrong. The key to happiness is living in a world where fat is beautiful.' Thus begins Ronnie¿s trip into her alternate reality. Suddenly, Ronnie¿s size twenty-eight is for the first time in her life an asset. This world Ronnie is in scorns thin women. The bigger the better, at least in this new reality, and for once, skinny women feel bad in her presence, and construction workers are whistling at her as she walks by. There's no Gilbert in this strange new world, but there are plenty of men who want to be with her, all nearly three-hundred-pounds of her, who can¿t get enough of her big, beautiful body. Ronnie believes she¿s in heaven. For once, big is beautiful, and she has all the attention that she¿s ever wanted. Except now that she has what she wants, she can¿t seem to eat¿and the glorious pounds that make her so desirable start dropping off. Now she¿s the object of disdain because she¿s losing weight instead of gaining it, and Ronnie begins to wonder if this reality is any better than the normal one. Ms. Waggener has penned a fantasy romance that any woman, regardless of her size, will be able to appreciate. What woman doesn¿t have something about her body that she wishes she could change? It doesn¿t matter if you¿re a size eight or a size thirty, everyone has something that they don¿t like about themselves¿or something that they fear others look down upon them for. ALTERNATE BEAUTY is a whimsical trip into the world of what-if, so settle in for an entertaining ride.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    insightful fun fantasy romance

    Over salads that would not feed a mouse, her paper thin mother Audrey informs size 28 Ronnie Tremayne that her obesity is driving the overweight customers away from Luscious Landing Large Women¿s Clothing Boutique. The owner, her mom¿s friend Cheryl Land, expects Audrey to lose a lot of weight or lose her store manager¿s position. === Upset that even her boyfriend Gilbert cannot help her, Ronnie overindulges in an eating binge. That night she dreams of a world where fat is beautiful. When she awakens her fantasy ahs turned out to be true. She is the centerfold of beauty with her near three hundred pound body. Ronnie attends all the galas and men want her. However, as her she finds a lust for life, she eats less. Over time the perfect 28 becomes an imperfect 10, but inside Ronnie detests what has become of her and misses her Gilbert. === This fantasy romance is an insightful look at the American idealization of thinness and demonizing obesity. The story line is fun to follow as Ronnie finds her role as an ALTERNATE BEAUTY in the new world order not quite as captivating as she thought it would be; instead she learns that what is inside a person is what counts not calories. Though health concerns of someone obese or too underweight are passed over too lightly, fans will cherish Andrea Rains Waggener¿s intelligently insightful look at the cost to a person¿s happiness of the constant drumming of the never too thin ideal. === Harriet Klausner

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 14, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 29, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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