Two very different women, both in shape and attitude, connect over the philosophical movement founded by the late Anna Granite. A very overweight woman, Dorothy, who works nights and sleeps days, becomes friends with a thin woman, Justine, who interviews Dorothy about her time working in a famous, now defunct, cult. Gaitskill does something very interesting in the sense that she writes Dorothy in the first person, but Justine in the third person.
Dorothy's childhood included sexual abuse at the hands of her father. It appears that her mother knew and permitted it. Dorothy reveals herself to the reader as a survivor who can take care of herself, though it calls into question her obvious eating disorder.
Justine is presented as a slick, sexual creature, but one who has also suffered sexual abuse. She hurts herself in very different ways than Dorothy, yet the two share many similarities.
The book toys with a ghost of a character, the cult leader who brings the women together with her bizarre philosophy. This is written absurdly and one of the only escapes from the otherwise serious tone.
Even though Justine is more stereotypically attractive and seemingly enjoys a more glamorous life, Dorothy shines through as the stronger of the two. Both are rather self-punishing in action, but they seem to need each other to shine light on their masochism. These two intense tales are woven together to create one very rattling story powerful enough to bind all women together.
Best part of story, including ending:
It shows how differently everyone processes their personal damage.
Best scene in story:
The ending. It's so hard to read but it finally offers relief. There is a solid change.
Opinion about the main character:
Dorothy and Justine are both so sickly and sad, but when they see it in each other it's very moving.