I enjoyed this latest novel from Jennifer Weiner, whom I gave 5-star ratings for her past titles Mrs. Everything, That Summer, and The Summer Place. Here's a synopsis from Kirkus Reviews:
A cyclist leads a group bike trip from New York City to Niagara Falls…with both her mother and a former one-night stand in tow.
Abby Stern’s biggest passion is her bike. Bicycling saved her when she was an overweight child of divorce, forced into attending weight-loss camp every summer by her judgmental mother. Flash-forward 15 years and she’s in a mostly happy relationship with Mark, a former camper she reconnected with as an adult. He’s half the size he used to be and adores Abby exactly the way she is. She should be over the moon that Mark wants to take their relationship to the next level, even if he won’t eat sugar or learn to ride a bike. He loves her, and that should be enough, right? When Abby gets the chance to lead a 12-day bicycling trip through New York, she takes it—it will be time on her precious bike, but most importantly, it’s time to clear her head, away from Mark. But the trip ends up being more complicated than she expected, mostly due to two unexpected riders. First, there’s Sebastian, a one-night stand Abby met before things got serious with Mark. And then there’s her mother, Eileen, who claims she just wants to spend time with Abby—but after a childhood filled with shame and guilt about her body, Abby is apprehensive. As she and Sebastian spend more time together, Abby is both excited and dismayed to discover herself feeling things she’s never felt with Mark—but can she trust a man who went viral on TikTok for sleeping his way around Brooklyn? Meanwhile, relying on her mother for help makes Abby wonder if their relationship might be salvaged after all. Abby is a deeply likable character, and Weiner expertly handles the delicate balance between her current body neutrality and her deep-seated trauma from years of attempting to shrink her body. The other riders on the trip provide humor and poignancy, and Weiner occasionally dips into their points of view. The romance between Abby and Sebastian is a slow burn that’s incredibly fun to read, but Abby’s journey to make her life her own is the real standout.
A lovely, compulsively readable story about finding your path and believing in your own worth.
I gained some important perspectives in this book: about what it's like to grow up feeling body shamed, and the wonderful feeling of a woman coming to accept and love her own body rather than constantly scrutinizing it. I loved the mother's story that is revealed later in the story, that explains (though doesn't excuse) the trauma she caused her daughter as she was growing up.
“Eileen wanted her daughter to shrink herself to fit into the space the world allotted, instead of fighting to change the systems and institutions that wanted women to keep themselves small. She treated Abby like a problem in need of solving instead of asking, even once, whether it was the world, not her daughter, that might have been wrong.”
This novel exposes the tyranny of societal expectations of women in America.
"She had done a lot of reading, and listened to a lot of podcasts about body positivity...and how diet culture and Western beauty standards contributed to, and were fed by capitalism...."
Hardcover 400 pages, Audiobook (recommended) 13 hrs, 30 mins
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