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Karen Schubert

There are very few people in this world who have “fit in” their entire lives. Whether it was a bad haircut or embarrassing clothes, we have all had our moments where we just did not belong. It is because of these “moments” that characters like Dolores Price of Wally Lamb’s “She’s Come Undone” and Cannie Shapiro of Jennifer Weiner’s “Good in Bed” touch our hearts.

Lamb’s protagonist, Price, experiences more than a moment of not fitting in. At age 13, Dolores weighs 257 pounds. As we all know, kids can be mean. Such obesity is not easily overlooked. She nurses her pain with Mallomars and Pepsi, whichonly makes the problem worse. It isn’t until she has hit rock bottom that Price can turn her life around.

Jennifer Weiner gives us a character who is a little more upbeat. Shapiro is a larger than life Philadelphia journalist whose ex-boyfriend decides to dedicate his monthly sex column to the destruction of her ego. When she reads the first article entitled, “Loving a Larger Woman,” she becomes devastated, angry and soon decides to take control.

While reading the two novels. I felt myself making connections between these two large and not-so-much-in-charge women. Both have less than normal family situations. Price’s mother is mentally ill, her father abandons the family for another woman and she is stuck living with her devout Catholic grandmother whose mindset is stuck in the ’20s.

Shapiro’s mother is a lesbian with a lover who is unbearably obnoxious, her father left the family to move to California and become a plastic surgeon to the stars and her best friend ironically is a skinny-as-Ally-McBeal Hollywood star named Maxie.

It is almost impossible to say which of these novels is better. “Good in Bed” is more lighthearted. Cannie’s life makes a few twists and turns but you are content knowing that it will end positively. Cannie is likeable and funny. She takes care of herself, and though it takes a while for her to feel like she fits in, she is independent and as a reader, you have no doubt that she can survive almost anything life throws at her.

“She’s Come Undone” affected me more than any novel I’ve ever read. It changed my mood for the week that I was reading it. I was dreadfully disturbed and concerned for Dolores and never knew if she was going to survived the atrocities that were thrown at her. Dolores constantly feels like an outsider. The only friends she makes are the elderly tattoo artist who lives across from her grandmother and the overweight lesbian janitor for her college dormitory. I feared that the novel would end leaving Dolores worse off than she started. You’ll have to read it to find out if that is true. “She’s Come Undone” is completely unpredictable which is, to some extent, why it is so disturbing.

Dolores’s story is one of death, rape, hatred and love, while Cannie’s story is one of shame, disappointment, and complete survival. These women don’t fit in. They probably never will, but that is what makes their stories worth your time.