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For Pandora cooking is a form of love Alas her husband Fletcher a self employed high end cabinetmaker now spurns the “toxic” dishes that he’d savored through their courtship and devotes hours each day to manic cycling Then when Pandora picks up her older brother Edison at the airport she doesn’t recognize him In the years since they’ve seen one another the once slim hip New York jazz pianist has gained hundreds of pounds What happened? After Edison has than overstayed his welcome Fletcher delivers his wife an ultimatum It’s him or meRich with Shriver’s distinctive wit and ferocious energy Big Brother is about fat an issue both social and excruciatingly personal It asks just how much sacrifice we'll make to save single members of our families and whether it's ever possible to save loved ones from themselves

10 thoughts on “Big Brother

  1. says:

    I am a big Lionel Shriver fan I loved her books Let's Talk About Kevin and especially So Much for That So I was looking forward to reading her new book Big Brother particularly since it deals with an issue that unfortunately is near and dear to my heart being overweightThe story is narrated by Pandora a forty something woman who lives with her husband Fletcher and her two teenage step children Pandora's marriage is already strained by her husband's fanatical obsession with healthy eating and exercise When her older jazz musician brother Edison moves in with them for a couple of months her family life deteriorates furtherEdison much to Pandora's shock has put on 200 pounds in the years since she has seen him In an effort to restore her brother to good health Pandora moves out of her home and into an apartment with her brother Together they go on a crash liuid diet and begin a year long adventure in weight lossThere is certainly much to like in Big Brother Shriver writes insightfully about this country's obsession with weight loss and health But I had some major problems with the book as wellFor one thing I grew tired of Pandora I feel like we spend way too much time inside her head I also had difficulty believing she and her husband who is pretty much a total jerk were ever happy And Edison is of a cliche than a fully fleshed out character But the biggest sin to me is the book's ending which pretty much made everything you read up to that point meaningless I was having a hard time enjoying the book before the last 20 pages but the ending made me feel completely ripped offIt is such a shame too because a writer as talented as Shriver dealing with such a universal subject could have written a fantastic book Instead it was a bit of a letdown

  2. says:

    If you have not read Shriver before then start with this her 2013 novel Big Brother Shriver seems to be less acerbic than she has in her previous novelsless outrage and shock are dealt by the writer's hand here Telephone calls which come in the middle of the night rarely are for good news And when Pandora is woken with a call about her brother Edison the same is true Pandora a successful business owner and Edison a talented jazz pianist have always been close They have grown up in the limelight of their father Travis Appaloosa's successful television series and drawn even closer after their mother dies when Pandora is 13 Edison is now a talented jazz musician in New York and Pandora's brainchild is the highly successful made to order Baby Monotonous 'doll' company But during the phone call Pandora learns that Edison is broke and needs a place to stay She soon finds out that he is also no longer the Jeff Bridges lookalike that he once was so she is determined to help him shed some of his excess 200lbs Pandora puts her marriage on hold and moves into an apartment with her brother and becomes his weight loss coach What follows is by turns sad and uplifting funny and refreshingIn Big Brother Shriver takes a good hard look at the lives of children of television stars modern society's fixation with the 'body beautiful' and gives some startling weight loss facts This is a novel about the morbidly obese and it is the anonymity of the overweight and obese that for me makes this so sad Morbidly obese people are not pitiful they are human but they are pilloried whether we like to admit it or not Eually this novel is about the love between siblings; a bond which goes much deeper than many children without siblings can understand “We cover for you we lie for you we take the heat for you We clean up your messes and mollify our parents for you We never fail to come across with undying adoration whether or not you deserve it and we can't take our lives as seriously as yours” It is rare to have a hero like Edison but for me he is a hero It is not often you find a male character imbibed with such handicap such loss in his life as you find here It is how he owns and confronts to his problems which make him steal into my heart In time this may become my most favorite Shriver novel; she is not assailing me with politic vitriol nor disturbing me with harrowing parenting stories And this is written about a subject Shriver knows only too well; it is widely documented that Shriver's brother Greg was morbidly obese although she refutes that Big Brother is biographical This is one of the very rare novels which made me cry I'd never imagined the social issues which obese people face But what I learned most from Big Brother; next time you see an obese or very overweight person do not look away – meet their eyes and acknowledge them like you mean it after all they are still a human being 45★Reading I found interesting regarding Shriver and her brother Greg 's newest novel is The Mandibles A Family 2029–2047 published June 2016

  3. says:

    This book disappointed me in so many ways Pandora the narrator marries Fletcher a man who just happens to be an extreme health nut Enter her brother Edison who has recently gained hundreds of pounds and will eat anything that doesn't run away from his fat fingered grasp Do you have to paint such broad strokes Lionel? The plot is absurd I do understand that the author's brother died from obesity and that she wished she could do However the way she did in this story is ridiculous Then to make matters even worse she uses this cheap plot device at the end that made me feel like I totally wasted my time reading the story I like to consider themes such as whether or not we can save people from themselves This book just used that premise to allow the author to proselytize about the social stigmas of obesity She used it as a platform for her personal beliefs It might have been much powerful if she had written her brother's story in a straightforward way Lastly I'd like to disagree with all of the people who believe that she's a great writer I think that her writing is convoluted and pompous I could give a myriad of examples but I'll just pick twoAfter letting himself gorge himself into even parlously poor health for two solid months the while keeping my eyes timidly averted like a mousy dishrag the bossiness was refreshingIf we were driving exactly two blocks away the journey stirred the same amalgam of optimism and anxiety as starting out on a poorly euipped slog of daunting distance during which conditions were bound to turn nasty unanticipated obstacles could prove insurmountable and rations this much is certain would grow perilously sparse

  4. says:

    Library Overdrive Audiobookread by Alice Rosengard plus my already ebook copy which I own I absolutely love Lionel Shriver yet there are still many books of hers I haven’t read even though over the past few years I’ve purchased several of her books I’ve missed This wasn’t going to be my first choice ‘next’ Shriver bookbut while on my way for searching something else I downloaded “Big Brother” for kicks since it was readily available not the first time I’ve impulsively done this The only thing I remember hearing about this book being completely honest here is that is was a ‘dud’ her ‘bomb’ book’NOT GOOD’so you can understand why this wasn’t high on my list to read I had absolutely no idea what the story was about and no idea what the picture on the cover was about “Big Brother”?isn’t that a reality TV show? Well I thought this was a very engaging book Perhaps not perfectbut definitely a STRONG 4 Starsand worth reading SoI blindly started listening to this book Paul even got hooked into this narrator reading to usand honestly he usually has a zillion other things to do than to get sucked into my fiction books on tape For startersLIONEL SHRIVER IS A TALENTED SAVVY THOUGHT PROVOKING author Had I forgotten how good she writes She had so many killer awesome sentences I ‘had’ to open up my ebook and read her words I almost wished I had the physical book This woman gets us thinking So? What’s this story about? In a nutshell one VERY FAT ‘Loved’ brotherand his younger sister who tries to help him loose weight by taking matters into her own hands creating a controlled weight loss environment Dietary restrictions are extreme Yet my ‘nutshell’ description is a trite simplified statementit’s just not enough It doesn’t convey the the emotions ABOUT NOT UNDERSTANDING OBESITY the denial the relationships within a family addiction itself the ‘walking on eggshells’ of suppressed communications the huge food budget food from hunger from the lack of it Shriver’s protagonist and younger sister to ‘Big Brother’ Edison is named Pandora is that not a cool name? Pandora is 40 years old Married to Fletcher She’s a stepmother to two teenagersShe also has a very uniue successful business making and selling novelty ‘dolls’ I laughedthey were so creative Buyers paid big bucks for these dolls Fletcher makes high end custom furniture but his business is much less successful Fletcher ‘is’ successful at being obsessively fit—he rides his bike hours a day and wouldn’t consider eating white flour Edison comes for a visitLONG VISIT Pandora used to look up to her older brothersuccessful musician The last time she saw him 4 months ago Edison was thin How does a thin man become MORBIDLY OBESE in just 4 months? His first night with Pandora her husband and teen kids had everyone in shock but nobody says anything is so raw real The next day at breakfast well I was shaking my head What would I do? Could I do? It was a noticeable out of the box normal breakfast for this family Edisonoh my I just need to say there were scenes with him in this novel that were so visual to me TOO VISUAL I can’t get them out of my mind easyA FEW REALLY SHOCKING UNEXPECTED SCENES It ‘is’ a book about weight dieting which becomes SUSPENSEFULbut this novel is about soooo much siblings sibling responsibility? intervention — ethical? or damaging?As for the ending of this book I didn’t see it comingthat’s all I’ll sayButwhat is REALLY SAD TO ME — I had NO IDEAAlthough this is a fiction storyit’s inspired by Lionel Shriver’s brother and his obesity linked death 45 Stars

  5. says:

    It's 21st century Iowa and Pandora in her 40s running a profitable uniue business married to perfectionist careful eater and fitness fanatic Fletcher with his modern art furniture business not doing lickety spit; and Pandora is step mum to his two kids She hasn't seen her moderately successful jazz musician brother for 4 years and when she sees him doesn't recognise at all as he's become morbidly obese How will this change how she treats her older brother who she has hero worshipped most of her life?As ever Shriver's prose his peerless as it is absorbing as she draws in to this first person Pandora narrated tale of looking for something to really live for; of families and if there's a line past which we can't help them; and the impact of our nurture A pretty engrossing and at times heartbreaking read with a finish which I kind of saw as a cop out so'll be interested to hear read what others think Shriver privileged political views aside is such an awesome writer though she just drags you in 8 out of 12

  6. says:

    I will read anything that Shriver writes I am completely tuned in to her sensibility She always picks topics and themes that other authors tend to ignore or who will write about sensationally Shriver does not shy away from politicizing or making bold statements but she does so in such a matter of fact specific yet humanizing that her books don't feel sensational That she also takes her stories from her own experiences helps that along I felt Pandora's revulsion when she picks her brother up from the airport I felt Pandora's conflict between doing what was right for her brother at times at great sacrifice to her family and it made perfect sense that the lengths to whcih she went to save her brother both failed and view spoilerwere a total fantasy on her part hide spoiler

  7. says:

    Despite 'Big Brother' finishing on a sad note and dealing with sensitive issues like eating disorders and family disputes it is still a lighthearted story than her bestselling novel 'We Need To Talk About Kevin' Shriver managed to pull off a enjoyable novel without abandoning the serious element of her writing In between the drama and humour she writes intelligently about harsh realities in a way that can have a profound sense of realization on the reader And yes her broad vocabulary which some readers are ambivalent towards features on almost every page of the book The only criticism I have is for the twist near the end It was cheap and contrived and come to think of it the story could still have had the same ending and impact without the twist

  8. says:

    25 sometimes even 275Reading this book reminded me of one of the worst dates I ever had From the initial phone call it was clear the guy had been around the block a few too many times hence earning the name 'Burn Out Boy' and the date from his perspective and then soon enough from mine was over before it began I don't know if it was boredom desperation or irritation but I found myself slipping into this awful persona using every big word I knew giving intense answers to small talk uestions until he interrupted me mid sentence and said drolly So are you like really smart?Obnoxious yes But somewhat deservedMany times while reading Big Brother I wanted to shake Lionel who I feel has not revisited her Kevin hayday with any of her subseuent certainly not her previous works and say to her I get it I get it ok? You're like really really smart I cite for example one of manyBrown with elegiac hints of yellow cornfield dying for the October harvest slipped past my window Overland electrical cables scalloped rhythmically by on creosoted poles while globular water tanks on narrow stems glowed in autumnal sun like giant incandescent lightbulbs The pastoral effect was blighted by big box stores and strip malls Yet on pristine stretches the countryside expressed the timeless groundedness and solidity that had captivated me as a child DEAR GOD ABOVE It's like one of my students writing thinking that the SAT words cramped into a sentence the betterSo that's the first thing I want to say about this book because in truth even with an interesting premise and this sort of had one with writing like that there's only so much you can enjoy it And when she wasn't doing THAT there was her other fall back writing method similar to Claire Messud's latest along with Curtis Sittenfeld's Sisterland whereby we are treated to the stiff intense musings and overly detailed accounts of the highly annoying cold and off putting heroineBut anyway The plotShriver enjoys taking on hot button issues whether it's gun control or health insurance and so enter 'My Feelings About Obesity Disguised Sort of as a Novel' Similar to Lisa Genova this book doesn't so much delve into characters and conflicts as it info dumps treatise after treatise with the occasional plot movement In essence Pandora is a middle age woman with a type A and frankly kind of revolting husband who is a health food maniac and biking enthusiast such that his wife holds dearly onto her 30 extra pounds while also hating herself and her two step kids irredeemably obnoxious Tanner with glimmers of Kevin and Cody very much reminiscent of the sniveling and annoying Celia she makes a living designing of all things little dolls with those pull strings who are special ordered to mimic someone this apparently makes her rather wealthy which will come in handy soon Self righteous husband Fletcher is not pleased when Pandora's big brother Edison decides to come visit down on his luck as an out of work jazz musician the visit is actually set for two monthsPandora is shocked to discover that in the four years that she has not seen Edison he has in fact expanded to nearly 400 pounds I give Shriver credit for whatever research or imagination she did to come up with the many details I would not have foreseen of hosting a morbidly obese person whether its dents in the mattress or a fixation on sugar so strong that Edison is caught eating it straight up or other things that I simply would not have thought of but I do not give her credit for Edison as a person He is selfish immature and downright annoying Shriver decided to go the route of Reconstructing Amelia in imposing highly unlikely attributes on a subject she probably knows little about In Amelia the sad author thought oh I bet teens speak in abbreviations like all the time And I bet a guy from England won't be believable unless he ONLY uses the words bloody cheers and rubbish So Edison once played jazz? Then 'What's for dinner' MUST become Yo what's a hungry cat gotta do around here to score some eats ya dig man?' I mean SERIOUSLY? He was already annoying this was NOT helpingAnyway Edison's clumsiness as well as overall poor eating habits translating into cooking very bad things for the fam leads to inevitable tension until finally he is set to leave But suddenly Pandora feels a stab of guilt and proposes that Edison and she take up an apartment and go on a liuid 580 calorie a day diet for a year and see if they can both lose their weightWell what ensues is an admittedly interesting and insightful examination though if it could have been a less direct one this would have been a much better book of how both gaining and losing weight cuts both ways and how we associate food with oh so many things As someone who works out nearly daily and vacillates between 'No processed food' and 'Diet be damned and pass it here' I am not exception to the tyranny that food moderation body image and prejudices therein have insinuated in probably all of our lives at least in a developed country where frankly it's a luxury to have such issues But if I want to read an article or essay I will this felt so contrived deliberate and heavy handed that while I read it and wanted to continue it was out of faint curiosity than actual enjoyment

  9. says:

    For the past several days I have recommended this book to family and friends even though it contains a totally unrealistic description of how much heavy people eat and how they eat it and a dangerous selection of fad crash diet I felt that the introspection on our fetishism over sizeweightfood was sufficient to ignore the other Today I finished the book and I feel like the literature I have been consuming has been revealed to be maggot infested trashShriver has her anti hero consuming considerably calories in coffee creamer per day than would be needed to support the weight she has him at plus gorging on everything else Spooning huge mouthfuls of confectioners sugar straight out of the box in such large amounts that he can't swallow them and it falls all over the front of himWhen his sister goes into seclusion with him to 'save his life' they go on an extreme liuid low calorie protein diet that would only be used ethically in a hospital setting for a person of his size and condition Yet they manage to maintain this diet without cheating for a yearIn the end the author abandons any sense of compassion for the man who has successfully completed his diet just as his sister abandons him by setting the scene of him gorging on chocolate cake Because that's what we fat people do Yes we do but we use a fork We don't eat chocolate cake by the fistful smearing it all over ourselves and wiping our hands down the sleeves of our expensive Italian leather coats As a journalist I would have expected Shriver to at least attend a few Weigh Watcher's meetings before passing on a bunch of vicious caricature

  10. says:

    High concept and high calorieI’m a sucker for novels with high concept hooks I can summarize Lionel Shriver’s latest in just a few sentences Pandora Halfdanarson a married mid western entrepreneur hasn’t seen her older brother in four years Edison is a successful jazz pianist out of New York and this is the longest they’ve ever been apart A friend of his calls her indicating that Edison’s fallen on hard times and she invites him to come stay for a visit At the airport she fails to recognize him—in the time they’ve been separated her brother has gained several hundred poundsThat premise was all I needed to hear Much like the eponymous brother I gulped this treat down whole—and enjoyed it thoroughly I don’t feel a large need to summarize the plot further Is there any you really need to know? Here’s what’s awesome about the novel with a premise like that there were only a few outcomes to the tale that I could readily envisage Ms Shriver managed to truly surprise meThis is I think the fourth novel dealing with morbid obesity that I’ve read in the past year or two For those who are interested the others were The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg Bed by David Whitehouse and Heft by Liz Moore all of which are different and all of which are recommended It’s sort of fascinating to see this cultural preoccupation at last seeping into our literature I only wonder that it took so longMs Shriver first came to my attention years ago with the publication of the uber intense We Need to Talk about Kevin In the years since I’ve been delighted to see that she likes to change things up Her last novel The New Republic was a satire for goodness sake Big Brother doesn’t really remind me of any of her earlier works except that she always seems to be drawn to a certain darkness That said this is really not a dark novel Honestly I’m not sure how to describe it as far as tone or genre other than to say it’s a family drama not merely about these adult siblings and their relationship with their father but also very much about the relationship between each sibling and Pandora’s husband and teenage stepchildren With Ms Shriver it goes without saying that you can expect lovely prose and exactingly drawn characters This tale moved uickly I read it easily in a day It’s a compelling story and hard to put down It’s like an episode of Dr Phil you know you should turn off but you just can’t look away Edison is both sympathetic and deeply repulsive More than anything however I come back to the novel’s ending I imagine it being polarizing but I found it inspired While I have not read them all this is my favorite of Ms Shriver’s novels to date