Lionel Shriver’s timely new novel Big Brother is not about who is the next housemate to be evicted from the Big Brother House ,or who the NSA is watching today. It’s a about a sister waiting for her big brother to visit her. It turns out that her big brother is actually now her obese big brother. Shriver forces us to question if we are responsible for our own bodies and if we become obese, is it really anybody’s business?
The siblings are Pandora, a novelty doll maker who never thought that that doll making would be the way she would be making a living and Edison, a jazz musician who was the once fit and handsome brother who now tips the scale at close to 400 pounds who hasn’t played a gig in a while. We also meet their sister Solstice who just feels left out of everything and can’t understand why.
The story unfolds with Pandora having to make the difficult decision of either choosing to support her big brother and getting him healthy or being a good wife and taking the side of her husband Fletcher, an only child who can’t grasp the whole sibling bond thing. Fletcher has nothing but disdain for his obese brother-in-law. Pandora makes a deal with Edison a deal that they both will lose weight with the proviso that if her brother cheats once the deal is over. When she chooses her brother over her husband, Fletcher abandons her, and after Edison has his first slip, she is ready to call the whole thing off.
We witness the struggles they both have with food issues and the difficulty of getting back on track. Pandora also is working to hold her marriage together and keep her stepkids happy, a daughter who loves her Uncle Edison no matter what, and a son who just wants to make it big in Hollywood.
This dysfunctional family unit figures it all out the end but in a country where bigger is always better when it comes to food and being obese is becoming the new normal, is the food we choose to eat literally killing us? Shriver tells us yes and if we don’t do something now we may literally regret it for the rest of or lives.