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Big brother : a novel
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2013
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Reviews

Booklist Reviews

Shriver continues her fictional inquiry into the timely topic of obesity, launched in the The New Republic (2012), with a novel about how weight problems can alter the dynamics of a family in devastating ways. Pandora is a successful entrepreneur living in Iowa with her uptight husband, Fletcher. Pandora's brother, Edison, is a once-popular jazz pianist in New York who can no longer pay his rent. Against Fletcher's wishes, Pandora sends Edison a plane ticket to Iowa; when he arrives, she almost doesn't recognize him owing to the "hundreds more pounds" he carries than when she last saw him. Edison's slovenly habits disgust Fletcher, a "nutritional Nazi," so when Pandora commits to helping Edison lose all those pounds, the siblings move to an apartment nearby. Shriver creates suspense by adroitly involving the reader in Pandora's effort to help her brother, and as in previous novels, she injects an unexpected twist at the end, which some readers may find annoying rather than clever. Nevertheless, Shriver brilliantly explores the strength of sibling bonds versus the often more fragile ties of marriage. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

Library Journal Reviews

Pandora must choose between placating husband Fletcher and saving the life of her morbidly obese brother. Shriver (We Need To Talk About Kevin) excels at social issues within the context of family.

[Page 62]. (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Library Journal Reviews

Pandora hasn't seen her older brother, Edison, a hip New York jazz musician, in four years. When she picks him up at an Iowa airport, he gives her the shock of her life: Edison has gained over 200 pounds and is unrecognizable. His visit is an intrusion into Pandora's home, which she shares with her fitness-freak husband, Fletcher, and her two adopted children. National Book Award finalist and New York Times best-selling novelist Shriver (So Much for That; We Need To Talk About Kevin) is known for her unstinting scrutiny of timely topics. Now she confronts the social but also painfully private issue of obesity through sibling relationships and marriage. However, the novel is essentially about fat—the nature of our relationship to food, why we overeat, and whether crash diets really work. As Fletcher becomes incensed with his brother-in-law's appalling eating habits, slovenly appearance, and careless behavior, he gives Pandora an ultimatum: it's him or me. VERDICT Brilliantly imagined, beautifully written, and superbly entertaining, Shriver's novel confronts readers with the decisive question: can we save our loved ones from themselves? A must-read for Shriver fans, this novel will win over new readers as well. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 12/9/12.]—Lisa Block, Atlanta

[Page 77]. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publishers Weekly Reviews

Shriver (We Need to Talk About Kevin) returns to the family in this intelligent meditation on food, guilt, and the real (and imagined) debts we owe the ones we love. Ex-caterer Pandora has made it big with a custom doll company that creates personal likenesses with pull-string, sometimes crude, catch phrases. The dolls speak to the condition of these characters—all trapped in destructive relationships with food (and each other): Pandora cooks to show love, to the delight of her compulsively fit husband Fletcher, whose refusal to eat diary or vary from his biking routine are the outward manifestation of his remove. Pandora's brother Edison eats to ease the pain of a stalled music career and broken marriage. And both live somewhat uncomfortably in the shadow of their father's TV fame. In Big Brother, nothing reveals character more scathingly than food. Early in the book, the nearly 400-pound Edison arrives—waddling through an Iowa airport with a "ground eating galumph"—a man transformed in the four years since his sister last saw him. He brings the novel energy as well as an occasionally unpalatable maudlin drama. But Pandora will risk everything, including her own health, to save him. If this devotion and Pandora's increasing success with Edison's diet plan sometimes seem chirpily false, a late reveal provides devastating justification. Agent: Kim Witherspoon, Inkwell Management. (June)

[Page ]. Copyright 2013 PWxyz LLC

Flap Cover Text

From the acclaimed author of the National Book Award finalist So Much for That and the international bestseller We Need to Talk About Kevin comes a striking new novel about siblings, marriage, and obesity.

When Pandora picks up her older brother Edison at her local Iowa airport, she literally doesn't recognize him. In the four years since the siblings last saw each other, the once slim, hip New York jazz pianist has gained hundreds of pounds. What happened?

And it's not just the weight. Imposing himself on Pandora's world, Edison breaks her husband Fletcher's handcrafted furniture, makes overkill breakfasts for the family, and entices her stepson not only to forgo college but to drop out of high school.

After the brother-in-law has more than overstayed his welcome, Fletcher delivers his wife an ultimatum: It's him or me. Putting her marriage and adopted family on the line, Pandora chooses her brother—who, without her support in losing weight, will surely eat himself into an early grave.

Rich with Shriver's distinctive wit and ferocious energy, Big Brother is about fat—an issue both social and excruciatingly personal. It asks just how much we'll sacrifice to rescue single members of our families, and whether it's ever possible to save loved ones from themselves.

- (HARPERCOLL)

Annotations

When her massively overweight brother, a once slim, hip New York Jazz pianist, comes for a visit, Pandora is forced to choose between her exercise fanatic husband and her brother, who desperately needs her support in losing weight. - (Baker & Taylor)

When her massively overweight brother, a once slim, hip New York jazz pianist, comes for a visit, Pandora, who believes that cooking is a form of love, is forced to choose between her exercise fanatic husband and her brother, who desperately needs her support in losing weight. 50,000 first printing. - (Baker & Taylor)

Big Brother is a striking novel about siblings, marriage, and obesity from Lionel Shriver, the acclaimed author the international bestseller We Need to Talk About Kevin.
 
For Pandora, cooking is a form of love. Alas, her husband, Fletcher, a self-employed high-end cabinetmaker, now spurns the “toxic” dishes that he’d savored through their courtship, and spends hours each day to manic cycling. Then, when Pandora picks up her older brother Edison at the airport, she doesn’t recognize him. In the years since they’ve seen one another, the once slim, hip New York jazz pianist has gained hundreds of pounds. What happened? After Edison has more than overstayed his welcome, Fletcher delivers his wife an ultimatum: It’s him or me.

Rich with Shriver’s distinctive wit and ferocious energy, Big Brother is about fat: an issue both social and excruciatingly personal. It asks just how much sacrifice we'll make to save single members of our families, and whether it's ever possible to save loved ones from themselves.

- (HARPERCOLL)

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