Pandora has to choose between her big brother or her family in this trenchant novel about obesity and sibling duty. Pandora Halfdanarson is a successful small business owner. She makes a line of talking dolls that are programmed to say mean things for specified loved ones. As a result, she is independently wealthy. Pandora is also a wife and mother who has who has to adjust to the fact that her brother Edison has come to live with her, and he weighs 336 pounds. Edison, a failed jazz musician living in New York City, is out of work and cannot pay the rent. He convinces Pandora to move in with her and her family in Iowa City. Pandora is hesitant at first to let Edison barge into her life. She eventually convinces her reluctant husband to let Edison come to live with them in Iowa.
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Pandora does not recognize her brother when she picks him up from the airport. She is shocked to discover Edison is now obese, but she tries to treat him like nothing has changed. Pandora's husband, who is a health nut, is appalled by Edison's eating habits. Pandora, in a series of humorous attempts, tries to help her brother lose weight. While trying to be a good sister to her brother, Edison's sudden appearance in the family puts a strain on Pandora's marriage.
Pandora finds herself struggling to choose whether or not she should side with Edison, or her husband. Edison cooks outrageous meals for the family and spurns any semblance of healthy cooking. Pandora's children see Edison as a pleasant diversion and are somewhat taken by his charm. In the end, Pandora finds herself having to choose between her eclectic, large brother, or her nit-picky (and skinny) healthy-eating husband.
Best part of story, including ending:
Shriver targets the obsession in American culture about healthy eating, but satirically shows how we often ostracize those who do not fit into nicely compartmentalized categories of fitness.
Best scene in story:
Pandora's descriptions of her talking dolls, while not really related to the overall plot, were funny diversions in the novel. The novel is satirical and there are several jabs about weight-loss programs and the marketing behind healthy eating. The song Pandora and Edison concoct together (to the tune of the Pledge of Allegiance) is humorous: "I pledge aversion to the flab / Of the derided waists of America, / And to the repulsion for which it stands, / One nation, underweight, practically invisible, / With misery and smugness for all."
Opinion about the main character:
Pandora is a nice foil to her brother Edison. While she is smart, entrepreneurial and family focused, he is searching for his identity, picking up the pieces of his failed music career, and messy.