The Fatness by Mark A. Rayner (Monkeyjoy Press, $16.99, ISBN 9781927590058)
Keelan Cavanaugh has been sentenced to a very different kind of prison. Uncomfortably installed at the Calorie Reduction Centre (CRC)—also known as the Fatness, or the Girth Gulag—he will lose weight, whether he wants to or not. In Rayner’s newest work of satire, anyone with a “few extra” must go to the CRC or lose their insurance, their jobs, or worse. There’s a bright spot for Keelan, though, for it is at the CRC that he meets Jacinda, an activist attorney looking to expose the CRC. Ironically, she gives Keelan a reason to make the program work—he now wants to look his best. But it’s not as easy as counting calories. Here, even personal weight loss is mired in bureaucracy and miles of red tape. The story holds up mirrors for social issues including the basic respect due all people and the need to cast a wary eye to the further privatization of health care. There’s humor and heart resident in Keelan’s story, as well as a sly inclusion of actual science. The Fatness is an ideal suggestion for fans of Christopher Moore’s absurdist delights, or for readers of dystopian fiction who could use a side of levity with their otherwise totalitarian buffet.
Easy to devour in one sitting, this tongue-and-cheek account of a BMI-obsessed society is both laughable and cringe-inducing. Like a truly dystopian tale, author Mark A. Rayner takes one of society’s sticking points and makes it the backbone of a not too distant future. This seemingly laughable premise raises larger questions about free will, body dysmorphia, and just how much the government should mind its citizens.
THE FATNESS unfolds in the confines of a Canadian Calorie Reduction Centre (CRC) where people with a BMI greater than 30 are sent to lose weight. These jail-like institutions operate like psychiatric hospitals of the past – with prescribed meals, activities, counselors and an overarching theme of shame-based motivation. Many people in the CRC have been in and out of institutions and some feel their prospects of re-joining the “normal” world are hopeless. Rayner paints them as literally larger-than-life, three-dimensional characters with their own backstories and quirks. Readers will relate to the struggles of yo-yo dieting, coupled with the immense pressure to conform to societal standards – whether they want to or not.
The story follows Kee as fights off his McDonald’s cravings, while suffering through crash diets of celery and apples. Unsatisfied with more than his nutrient-deprived meals, Kee uncovers CRC secrets stashed away like last year’s Halloween candy. Although not self-righteous, Kee calls it as he sees it and realizes that the institution behind the CRC and the CRCs themselves must change. After wading through the bureaucratic process, Kee uncovers the bitter truth behind the institution, as well as the ragtag gang of fatties dealing fast food and covering their tracks with a trail of French fry grease.
Kee catches the eye of Jacinda, an attractive lawyer investigating the CRCs for corruption, and their relationship grows as Kee’s waistline shrinks. But Jacinda isn’t just the hero’s love interest, she has her own inner demons to battle as she fights to stay out of the CRC herself. A capable lawyer and curvy lady, Jacinda is one of the few “normies” fighting for justice and is willing to put her job and her freedom on the line for love.
THE FATNESS is a story of socialism gone wrong, set amid a plausible backdrop with witty characters who will steal your heart and snag your cheeseburger if you’re not careful.
~Veronica An for IndieReader
A few selected reviews from Netgalley:
"A brilliant humorous look at a dark topic, The Fatness tackles that giant elephant in the room - the obesity epidemic. Not political, but a bit dark at times, this dystopian and funny story is a great break from reality." ~ Liliyana S.
"Perfectly absurd. So, I really enjoyed it. Funny and believable...and scary in it's own hyper-possible way." ~Andie P.
"I was quickly captivated by the character development and the story arc and knew that I had not made a mistake by choosing to read this book. Mark A. Rayner does an excellent job of making you care for the protagonists, and loathe the antagonists. At times this book was hilarious, and at others, it was all too real. The story itself is rooted enough reality that one cannot help to feel that the Fatness could be a component of our future. This is a biting satire focusing on everything from governmental control to private healthcare to corporate greed to societal norms. You do not have to be an individual who has struggled with their weight to enjoy this book, but those of us that have ever fallen into the 30+ "bimmi" category with certainly identify with Keelan and company." ~Kyle E.
"This was an entertaining read that kept me turning the page chapter after chapter. I've not read other Mark A. Rayner books before, so I wasn't sure what to expect. What I found was a book that made me examine my own prejudices, all while telling a humorous love story. Rayner intersperses snips of scientific studies between each chapter, and I actually learned a bit about the science behind losing weight. All in all, this is a great read that I would highly recommend to others." ~Elyse R.
NEW YORK, NY – On June 3rd, New York Times bestselling author CJ Lyons announced The Fatness won in the humor category of the annual IndieReader Discovery Awards (IRDAs). The announcement was made at BookExpo America (BEA), a major publishing trade show.
This is the second literary award the satirical novel has garnered! The Fatness won a silver International Book Publishing Association (IBPA) Benjamin Franklin award for humor in April this year.
“The books that won the IRDAs this year are not just great indie books; they are great books, period. We hope that our efforts via the IRDAs ensure that they receive attention from the people who matter most. Potential readers,” said Amy Edelman, founder of IndieReader.
Judges for the awards included notable publishers, agents, publicists and bloggers. The Fatness received the following verdict from IndieReader’s reviewers: “The Fatness is a story of socialism gone wrong, set amid a plausible backdrop with witty characters who will steal your heart and snag your cheeseburger, if you’re not careful.”