“I usually learn more from the situations I hate than the ones I love.” – Wally Lamb, She’s Come Undone
Spoiler Warning & Trigger Warning!
Book Review & Summary Intertwined:
Though I thought that this book was fantastic, I feel that I need to start by providing you guys with the trigger warning that the book jacket did not give. The book jacket gives the impression that the main character, Dolores Price, simply decides to fight to overcome her obesity. However, the real story is much more involved and complex. Dolores’ issues with overeating are first triggered by her parents divorce and by being raped as a young teen. She also goes through an abortion later in life which creates a great deal of trauma for her. “She’s Come Undone” was a hefty read, following Dolores from age 4 to age 40 as she navigates the long road from trauma to recovery. Dolores must hit rock bottom, attempting suicide, before her healing journey can truly begin. Highly psychological and packed with drama and trauma, this book is a must read.
When dealing with major issues like depression, obesity, trauma, rape, abortion, and abandonment, I was relieved to see that the author provided a realistic depiction of Dolores’ road to recovery. As most of you know, recovery is messy and does not happen all at once.
I was surprised to learn that the author of this book is a man. I was blown away by his ability to write so convincingly from the perspective of a deeply sensitive and traumatized female protagonist. As a character, Dolores was hard to love at times. However, I found myself learning to love her as I got deeper into her story. With such a traumatizing back story, I had to keep reminding myself that Dolores’ pessimistic and sometimes abrasive personality likely developed as a form of self-defense after being raped and abandoned. Like many victims of sexual assault, Dolores often lashed out at those who loved her most, especially her mother. She turned to food for comfort and allowed her weight to serve as a barrier between herself and others, keeping her from developing normal relationships.
I was a bit torn regarding my opinion of the author’s portrayal of what it is like to be an obese female. Most of the women in my family are obese. I myself am moderately overweight. I honestly don’t feel like being overweight makes a person unattractive or unworthy. However, the author made it seem that being heavy turns the whole world against you and makes it impossible for anyone to love you. This obviously isn’t true. Weight has nothing to do with a person’s worth. However, I can understand how Dolores felt bad about herself because her weight. Being heavy can contribute to low self-esteem, but it doesn’t have to. Its possible to learn to love yourself as you are.
I found myself wanting Dolores to branch out and try to make friends in her teen and college years. However, she seemed to go on by pushing away the people who cared for her and idealizing many of the people who treated her like garbage. I was especially intrigued by the fact that Dolores fell for her college room mate’s boyfriend by intercepting the mail and reading the love letters he sent. She goes on to further idealize this fabricated connection by orchestrating a seemingly coincidental meeting between the two of them after her stay at the mental hospital.
Things didn’t really start to turn around for Dolores until she lost her mother, had a sapphic encounter with a friend, and decided to leave college. At this time, Dolores takes off on a mission to kill herself. I will leave out the details of her suicide attempt. You can read that for yourself. The suicide attempt was followed by several years spent in a mental institution. The treatment she received at the institution seemed unusual and experimental. Her doctor planned to reparent her, asking her to go through each stage of her life from birth to present as he stood in as a surrogate mother.
She gets back to a healthy weight during her time in therapy and regains some of her independence. However, she chooses to leave therapy before she has been taught how to develop healthy relationships. She ends up jumping into a relationship with the ex boyfriend of her old college room mate, lying to him about her entire history. The relationship doesn’t fit even though they are married for 4 years before divorcing one another. He turned out to be a lot like her father, who had been a cheater and abusive towards her mother. He does not want to be a father, so when Dolores gets pregnant he persuades her to get an abortion.
I may be wrong, but I found the authors description of the abortion to be a bit inaccurate. Dolores seemed to feel no physical pain, which seems to be unlikely. However, his depiction of her mourning after this event was right on the money. I appreciated that even years down the road, Dolores still had love for the child that she chose to give up. She mourned that child for the rest of the book. Because abortion is such a controversial issue, it is often assumed that women who make this decision do not love or care for their child. Obviously, this isn’t true. I was thankful that when dealing with a sensitive topic like abortion, the author was attentive to the trauma that Dolores experienced from it after already facing so much loss and death in her life.
After her divorce, Dolores reconnected with a few old friends, moved back to her childhood home, and became determined to make it on her own. True to the recovery process, the author introduces the topic of relapse. With no one else to throw her energy and attention into, Dolores decides to buy a flat screen t.v. She quickly finds herself falling back into old habits, drawing away from the world as she binges on snacks in front of the t.v. Thankfully, one of her friends pulls her out of her funk.
I would have liked to see Dolores find a way to live on her own, and for a while she did. However, she wanted to have a baby and ended up hooking up with someone new. She keeps him at arms length at first, not knowing how to form a healthy romantic relationship. However, she lets him closer as time goes on. This match is much healthier and they eventually get married. Unfortunately, Dolores is now too old to get pregnant. Another loss, but she is able to accept and heal by embracing her life the way it is and the wonderful people in it.
Up Next: “In The Woods” By Tana French 🔪
For the rest of October, I plan to read and review as many spooky, murdery, mystical themed books as I can (which may only be 1-2 lol).
Have you ever read this book? What were your thoughts about it? I would love to hear from you in the comment section below. If you enjoyed this post, please shoot me a like, comment, or follow.
Love Always, AnxiouslyM