Waisted

A Novel

LIST PRICE $36.00

About The Book

Named a “Best Summer Read of 2019” by The Boston Globe, Parade, The Palm Beach Post, and CNN

In this provocative, wildly entertaining, and compelling novel, seven women enrolled in an extreme weight loss documentary discover self-love and sisterhood as they enact a daring revenge against the exploitative filmmakers.

Alice and Daphne, both successful and accomplished working mothers, harbor the same secret: obsession with their weight overshadows concerns about their children, husbands, work—and everything else of importance in their lives. Scales terrify them.

Daphne, plump in a family of model-thin women, learned only slimness earns admiration at her mother’s knee. Alice, break-up skinny when she met her husband, risks losing her marriage if she keeps gaining weight.

The two women meet at Waisted. Located in a remote Vermont mansion, the program promises fast, dramatic weight loss, and Alice, Daphne, and five other women are desperate enough to leave behind their families for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The catch? They must agree to always be on camera; afterward, the world will see Waisted: The Documentary.

The women soon discover that the filmmakers have trapped them in a cruel experiment. With each pound lost, they edge deeper into obsession and instability...until they decide to take matters into their own hands.

Excerpt

Waisted CHAPTER 1
Everyone hated a fat woman, but none more than she hated herself.

Alice knew this to be true. Today’s proof? She, along with six other substantial women, stood in the parking lot avoiding each other, as though their abundance of flesh might transfer from body to body, despite all waiting to board the bus for the same reason: “the unique opportunity to spend an entire month exploring ways to bring yourself into balance.”

Balance, as written in the Waisted brochure, implied weighing less. The virtually memorized pamphlet tucked in Alice’s jeans pocket promised a new life. The women scuffled in the leaves in the parking lot of a designated Dunkin’ Donuts—a meeting place Alice suspected, for no good reason, had been chosen with deliberate irony. She pushed away thoughts of mean-spirited motivation, chalking up her suspicion to nerves and rising hints of buyer’s remorse.

The thick smell of donuts blew around with the scent of fall leaves. As Alice shuffled from her right to left foot, pulling her suede jacket tight against the wind, a redheaded white woman approached with an outstretched hand.

“I’m Daphne.” Being much shorter, she had to look up at Alice. “And nervous as hell.”

Before Alice could do more than shake Daphne’s hand, a uniformed woman came into view, self-importance emanating from her stiff shoulders to the black pen she clicked on and off.

“No talking, ladies. Line up, tell me who you are, and then march on board.” She checked names against a paper fastened to a red clipboard. One at a time, the women climbed the steps of a repurposed school bus. After the last participant dragged her crazy-wide thighs up the stairs as though this ascension were an Olympian event, the woman in charge marched aboard.

“Listen up. I’m the driver. Here are your rules.” Though she wore no cap, an invisible one seemed perched on her head. “You will have five minutes for any last texts or emails that you wish to send. After that, you will give me your cell phones and wallets. Tell your loved ones you’ll speak to them in four weeks. Until that time—”

Daphne, her voice breaking, raised her hand. “What if—”

The stern woman held up a hand. “No exceptions will be made. Every one of you signed agreements containing this information. You will be allowed to write letters. This is not meant as punishment; it’s your first step in freedom from your past. From this moment on, you concentrate on yourselves and no one else.”

Alice stared at her phone, pulled up the keyboard, and then closed the screen. She repeated the exercise three times until shutting off the device. She’d already sent all the explanations to her husband that she could muster. To her parents as well. Additional messages wouldn’t help justify her actions.

The driver walked down the aisle, hand out. When receiving each phone, she peeled off a sticker—a small name tag, it turned out—and placed it on the back of the device. “To ensure you get the right phone back,” she explained.

After handing over her phone, Alice unfolded the creased and much-read brochure.

“Waisted: Where You Discover You Can,” the luminous cover announced.

A photo of a sprawling mansion, rays of sun shining through clouds and dappling the windows with sparkling promise, covered the front. Adirondack chairs dotted the green lawn. Giant sunflowers waved from a garden in the distance. Muscular women with strong-looking legs lay on straw mats.

An avalanche of fancy words for slimming down drew her, once again, like a magic potion. Idealized photos revealed attractive, plump women in yoga positions, diving into a pool, and sitting cross-legged in circles. Alice read again the quote she’d highlighted in yellow. “?‘If there is no struggle, there is no progress.’—Frederick Douglass.”

She pushed away thoughts about the brief paragraph regarding filming for educational purposes.

None of the women sat far from the front of the bus, though nobody shared any of the bench seats. They only darted covert glances at one another. As though imitating the brochure, they formed a virtual UNICEF poster of heavy women: white, black, Hispanic, Korean, and Indian. And then there was Alice, representing mixed race, though who knew into which category they’d slotted her.

Alice tried to ignore her period cramps and the nausea brought on by exhaust fumes. Perhaps the first test of fortitude “as you embark upon a journey of inner exploration to reevaluate your lives and learn how the mind-body connection affects your body,” was this bumpy ride to the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. After traveling for hours, Alice wanted to separate from both her outer and inner explorers. Sleep threatened to overtake her, the day having begun with an early train ride from Boston to Springfield.

Alice needed food, water, and ibuprofen.

The women surrounding her were dressed as though they were headed to a brunch attended by friends they wanted to impress. Without phones, zoning out with headphones and a playlist was impossible. A dark-skinned woman with red glasses clutched an unread paperback, but most of them simply gazed out the window.

After three hours, they left the highway and turned onto a two-lane state road. Neither homes nor businesses appeared on either side. The area seemed deserted.

The driver made a sharp left, though no identifying marker beckoned from anywhere, and steered the bus up a narrow paved road. After driving up as though on the ascent of a roller coaster, the ride evened out as the road gave way to tamped-down dirt. They slowed to a crawl along a single-lane road bordered by a low rock wall until reaching an open area fenced in by barbed wire. Here the bus entered a road bisecting a magnificent field strewn with fiery maple leaves until resuming its journey to the top of a long circular driveway.

Alice put a hand to her heart as the vehicle shuddered to a stop. From this vantage point, high up a mountain, she beheld the breathtaking view: multiple valleys colored by a riot of October colors.

“You’ve arrived.” The driver’s sardonic grin unnerved Alice. “Enjoy.”

Across two football fields’ worth of grass loomed a yellow mansion, topped with a copper-topped cupolaed roof. A vast white porch curved around the building.

The women exited the bus and walked the long brick path leading to a set of broad perfectly painted brown stairs.

Hanging from a porch beam swung a cryptic wooden sign.

Welcome to Privation.

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Waisted includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.

Introduction

In this provocative, wildly entertaining, and compelling novel, seven women enrolled in an extreme weight loss documentary discover self-love and sisterhood as they enact a daring revenge against the exploitative filmmakers.

Alice and Daphne, both successful and accomplished working mothers, harbor the same secret: obsession with their weight overshadows concerns about their children, husbands, work—and everything else of importance in their lives. Scales terrify them.

Daphne, plump in a family of model-thin women, learned only slimness earns admiration at her mother’s knee. Alice, breakup skinny when she met her husband, risks losing her marriage if she keeps gaining weight.

The two women meet at Waisted. Located in a remote Vermont mansion, the program promises fast, dramatic weight loss, and Alice, Daphne, and five other women are desperate enough to leave behind their families for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The catch? They must agree to always be on camera; afterward, the world will see Waisted: The Documentary.

The women soon discover that the filmmakers have trapped them in a cruel experiment. With each pound lost, they edge deeper into obsession and instability . . . until they decide to take matters into their own hands.

Topics & Questions for Discussion

1. How does the mood of the opening scene resonate with you? What did you expect to come after reading this?

2. “What are you?” Alice has gotten this question for most of her life in regards to being mixed-race (page 11). How does the question affect her? What role does race play in her identity and her relationships?

3. Describe Alice and Daphne’s relationship to food and their weight. What are the differences and similarities between them? Do either of their relationships to food match yours?

4. After leaving the film awards ceremony, Clancy and Alice have an argument when they arrive home. Read between the lines and dissect what each character is really trying to say. How does the argument affect Alice’s decision to sign up for the documentary-filmed retreat, Waisted?

5. At the wedding of Daphne’s sister, her mother directs some sharp words toward her: “Sunny grabbed Daphne’s upper arm. ‘Cover these,’ she whispered. ‘The photographer is everywhere’” (pg 56). Why do you think Sunny acts this way toward her daughter? Are her actions fitting for a mother? Could you imagine doing this to your daughter? How would you have reacted if you were in Daphne’s shoes?

6. What does Daphne realize about her parenting tactics toward Audrey? What had been her intention in the first place? Discuss what she may mean by her “body [ruining] relationships” (page 65).

7. How do the trainers treat the women upon their arrival? How do you feel about their remarks toward the women and their goals?

8. Besides sharing the experience of acclimating to Waisted’s grueling demands, what bonds Alice, Daphne, and Hania? Describe a few of their conversations. What roles do they each play in this friendship that is engendered by being roommates?

9. The weigh-ins had been humiliating enough for the characters when they were clothed, but the trainers take it a step further by ordering them to strip completely before stepping on the scale. What are some of your reactions to this scene? What did Daphne and Alice’s responses reveal about their character growth?

10. The women’s revenge plan is based on what they discover in the filmmaker’s den? What’s their revenge plan? Where do you think their courage came from?

11. Describe what Daphne and Alice’s lives are like after returning from the mansion. Did their weight loss come at a cost? How do people react to their new appearances?

12. Describe Clancy’s reaction when he learns about Alice’s plans against the filmmakers for Waisted. Are you surprised at all? What are your thoughts on Alice and Clancy’s reconciliation? Do you think the issues brought up in the beginning of the novel are surmountable?

13. How do the characters view themselves in the end? What do you think their lives will be like going forward?

Enhance Your Book Club

1. “‘I wonder if there’s a girl in America who doesn’t grow up wanting to be skinny?’ Alice mused” (pg 115). Reflect on your own relationship with weight and body image. How would you answer Alice’s question? Research the history behind the body positivity movement. Read news articles about the movement today and discuss where it might be going.

2. Discuss reality television shows that focus on weight and body image, such as The Biggest Loser, Extreme Weight Loss, and Celebrity Fit Club. If you haven’t seen these shows, watch a few clips on YouTube. What value do these shows possess? After reading about Waisted and the characters’ experience, what are your thoughts about reality TV?

3. One of Randy Susan Meyers’s many strengths as an author is her ability to depict women whose experiences feel real and universal, such as Daphne striving to find the right dress for her sister’s wedding or her desire to raise her daughter differently than how she was raised by her mother. Alice fears that her weight gain may have caused her husband to cheat, or that her weight lost may cause her daughter to value being thin over all else. Which scenes resonated with you the most? Who do you relate to the most: Alice, Daphne, or Hania?

About The Author

Photograph by Sharona Jacobs

Randy Susan Meyers is the bestselling author of Waisted, Accidents of Marriage, The Comfort of Lies, The Murderer’s Daughters, and The Widow of Wall Street. Her books have twice been finalists for the Mass Book Award and named “Must Read Books” by the Massachusetts Center for the Book. She lives with her husband in Boston, where she teaches writing at the Grub Street Writers’ Center.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Atria Books (May 21, 2019)
  • Length: 288 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781501131387

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Raves and Reviews

"Meyers spins a compelling tale, raising critical questions about familial, social, and cultural messages about body image."— Kirkus Reviews

“To Alice and Daphne, being thin is taking over their world. They become fast friends when they both sign up for a program promising dramatic weight loss in one month. Meyers exquisitely explores body image, family, and marriage in this surprisingly deep novel. though she starts with a fictionalized version of the TV show The Biggest Loser, she dips into major issues of race, culture, obsession, and sisterhood. Taking on the timely topic of how a woman is perceived in today’s society, she twists it into how far women will go to be what society deems right, and at what cost—a marriage, a family obligation, a personal goal? A compelling story that will leave readers giving their scale the side eye.” —Booklist

"Meyers delivers a timely examination of body image, family, friendship, and what it means to be a woman in modern society. It will appeal to anyone who has ever dreaded stepping on a scale; even those who haven't will learn from it. Culturally inclusive and societally on point, this is a must-read." —Library Journal

"Suspenseful. Witty. Warm. Wonderful. Disturbing. Thoughtful. Compelling. Riveting. Seriously important. Inspiring. It made me hungry. Then made me never want to eat again. I recognized myself. Then hated myself. Then loved myself. This is a must read for every woman who ever stepped on the scale with her eyes closed. And every woman who hasn't." —M.J. Rose, New York Times bestselling author of Tiffany Blues

"A big-hearted triumph of a novel. Meyers tackles painful truths and thorny issues while weaving a smart and engaging story about weight loss, self-acceptance and the fortifying power of female friendship."— Carolyn Parkhurst, New York Times bestselling author of Harmony and The Dogs of Babel

“The perfect blend of great storytelling and incisive commentary, Waisted peels back the layers of women’s feelings about their bodies, their relationships, and ultimately their self-worth. Readers will ride a tilt-a-whirl of emotions—fist pumping chief among them—as Alice and Daphne wage war on their inner demons and on the heartless filmmaker who would exploit their deepest wounds for his own gain.”— Juliette Fay, author of The Tumbling Turner Sisters

“Meyers perfectly captures every woman’s angst overweight in a fresh and entertainingway. The characters are unlike any you’ve met before and the plot will keep the reader turning pages well into the night. Pardon the pun, but I devoured Waisted in one sitting.” —Elyssa Friedland, author of The Intermission

“How far will women go to achieve the weight loss they think will bring them happiness? This incisive story of friendship and self-esteem gets at the heart of body image with the pacing of a thriller.” —Nichole Bernier, author of The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D.

“When body image goes rogue in this tense and riveting novel, three women wade into a swamp of self-destruction as they attempt to save what they love most.” —E.B. Moore, author of An Unseemly Wife

“This novel, about the lengths women will go to lose weight, gave me so much to think about in terms of how I think about weight and how I can let it control my life. The idea that a number on a scale can change my mood is ridiculous and yet dead-on. In this novel, Alice and Daphne go to a weight-loss retreat that is a documentary experiment in disguise. They are shamed, put through devastating workouts on little food, and plied with pills. As difficult as it was for me to watch them go through this, I had to think, “Yeah, I might do the same.” Meyers does such a great job capturing the mindset of these women and how society views them. There’s so much more to this novel–how race plays into body expectations; the examples we do or do not provide for our own children; family dynamics–and I’ll be thinking about it for a good long time. I think this is novel looks at some important topics but disguises them in this amazingly readable and engaging novel. I had to see how it would end! This would be an excellent book club novel as there is so much great stuff in here to discuss!” —Jennifer Brown, USA Bestselling Author of Modern Girls

“I honestly can’t remember a time when I wasn’t worried about my weight, trying to lose it, trying to hide it. I still am. But what I found in Waisted was more valuable than almost any other advice or lessons about weight loss I’ve ever read. The story of two women, Waisted is about what lengths women will go to lose weight, what happens when you’re pushed beyond humiliation, pain, and fear, survive it, and move towards a happier life. The women of Waisted are real, flawed, but completely relatable and lovely characters. I saw so much of myself and women I know, not only in the protagonists but in family and friends. This book pushed so many emotional buttons for me, but Randy Susan Meyer’s writing is stunning, her storytelling both compassionate and compelling. Waisted is about so much more than weight loss. It’s about learning about yourself and learning to love yourself, step by (sometimes tiny) step. An excellent and empathetic read for, as MJ Rose is quoted saying “every woman who ever stepped on the scale with her eyes closed. And every woman who hasn’t.” —Tildy Banker-Johnson, Belmont Books Manager

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