Two Girls, Fat and Thin
Two Girls, Fat and Thin is the story of fat Dorothy and thin Justine. Growing up in very different but similarly affection-starved environments in middle America, the two very different and unhappy women meet and bond over their love-hate relationship with the novels of Anna Granite, an Ayn Rand-like author whose over-the-top, unsparing books fuelled their adolescent fantasies of perfection and relationships. Mary Gaitskill’s short stories (including ‘Secretary,’ which was made into the film starring Maggie Gyllenhaal) deal with similar themes to this novel, a heady mix of hard-to-articulate desires and moments of unexpected tenderness, but the depth and breadth of this novel gives these themes a bigger space to spread out into something almost operatic. Two Girls, Fat and Thin deals with the girls’ lives from early puberty into their late twenties and early thirties, and the compassion and tenderness that flowers between these two damaged women and very unlikely friends is heart-stopping and unexpected. A must-read for anyone who remembers the fierce competition and small, enduring cruelties of high school and loveless childhoods, the ending of this novel is a reminder that it’s not always easy to transcend the places we came from, but it’s still easier than we might think.