Fat Assassins by Marita Fowler

Content Warning: there is some lightheartedness around an instance when one character has a roofie slipped into her drink (she is not assaulted), which struck me as inappropriate and didn’t mirror the tone or content of the rest of the novel at all.


The following book has been selected as part of my search to find positive representations of folks who identify as fat women in fiction, nonfiction, or poetry. That positive representation will not hinge on the character being miserable and then happy after losing weight or falling in love. Characters can lose weight or fall in love, but it is not the catalyst for their happiness. I also will not recommend books in which the character pulls her body apart (I call this the “chicken dinner”) and criticize pieces.

Thus, books will either meet or not meet my criteria, which will factor overall into my recommendations. I purposely use the word “fat” because it is not a bad word. Using plump, curvy, plus-sized, fluffy, big-boned, shapely, voluptuous, or any other term suggests that fat is bad and thus needs a euphemism.

fat assassins

Fat Assassins was self-published by Marita Fowler in 2011. It’s the story of two women in their early 20s who live in Nitro, West Virginia, and have been best friends since 3rd grade. To the best of my knowledge, Fat Assassins takes place around 2008. The heroines, Shasta and Ulyssa, share a mobile home. But one horrible day, both women are out of a job  — one from Wal-Mart and the other from a construction company — for unjust reasons. They try to get new jobs in a town that has almost no work that isn’t shady when they read an add for an exterminator gig at a strip club. Shasta and Ulyssa are running out of money, so they decide to stretch the truth and say they have experience killing pests. A conversation in their car before the interview reveals how woefully naive, yet hilarious, they are:

“Yeah, I wonder if they have insurance in case one of the dancers gets bit? Imagine sitting there getting ready for the show wearing nothing but feathers and tassels,” Ulyssa said, twirling her fingers in circles by her boobs for emphasis, ” . . . and BAM! A squirrel bites a boob!”

We both shuddered thinking about a crazed squirrel swinging by the teeth from our boobs.

“Ouch! Don’t forget they carry diseases too? That would doubly suck! Getting a squirrel bite and a rabies shot in the boob! I hate squirrels!” I said.

“Yeah, me too. They’re evil, furry rats!”

“What if there are squirrels in the parking lot right now just waiting to attack us for our boob jerky? Maybe they’re circling the car looking for a way in . . .”

And through a misunderstanding of coded language, our heroines end up working for a gangster who wants a man killed. The rest of the book is their attempts to actually kill him, justifying their choice because he’s a bad person. And, well, it couldn’t be any worse than hitting a deer with your truck.

The world building of Nitro, West Virginia, is incredible. The things people say and the way they think reminded me of my own roots in central Michigan, but were taken to the extreme, because what is WV if not extreme? Readers are introduced to “tourist fishing,” which means there is a road that leads directly into a lake, but current GPS doesn’t note the lake. People from out of town drive right into the lake because they follow their GPS blindly, and the local tow truck/autogarage/used car business owner sits on a couch by the lake waiting for such people — and offers them a tow and to fix their vehicle.

There’s also the example familiar to Mid-westerners regarding deer season: there’s deer season, then there’s “don’t get caught season.” Of course, those who kill deer may not use a rifle or bow; they may just keep the deer they hit with their trucks.

While the book isn’t conservative, readers are reminded that everyone is a Republican when Ulyssa takes an oath:

“If I break this oath, I will suffer the justice of my Hillbilly ancestors and my trailer will fall off the blocks. And Shasta can put a Democrat sign in my front yard.”

Marita Fowler weaves the world building into the story itself, never pausing to info-dump on the reader and take them out of the story. Even some of the word choices, such as a guy who accidentally says “applediziacs” instead of “aphrodisiac,” reminds readers of they type of town in which Fat Assassins is set.

Furthermore, Fowler doesn’t make this novel about Shasta’s and Ulyssa’s fat bodies. The information is woven into the text. There are mentions of feeling “desperate” for Dairy Queen, wanting M&M’s because one is in a “salty-sweet mood,” feeling excited about doing dangerous work and thus wanting a “pint of New York Superfudge Chunk,” getting whipped cream on hot chocolate, ordering lattes at Starbucks without making them reduced cal/fat/sugar, or packing Little Debbie’s for a road trip. These food moments are ones we tend to see connected with shaming people, or the purchase of these types of food lead to immediate explanation and/or apology from the purchaser.

The world makes space for these fat characters, too. When Shasta feels nervous about a ride at the fair due to her size, an employee kindly tells her to take the seat on a certain part of the ride because it’s roomier. No apologies, no fat shaming. There are a few instances when other characters make remarks, but Fowler makes clear these are petty, mean people.

If you’re reading this, I hope you support the author. A Kindle copy of Fat Assassins is $0.99 right now on Amazon (and the same on Amazon U.K.). Fat Bodyguards, the next book, which I will read in March, is also $0.99I cannot wait to read it! When I looked for Marita Fowler online to tell her how much I loved, laughed at, and appreciated Fat Assassins, I soon learned that her online presence dropped off in 2014, even though she had revealed a cover for a third book, Fat Spies! Where is Fat Spies, I wondered. It’s not for sale! Being a little unethical, I stalked around until I found one Marita Fowler on Facebook and messaged her. It was her, you guys! I told her how I felt about Fat Assassins, and she wrote back: “Your msg today made me smile and motivated me to get back to the keyboard.” Fat Spies, here we come?

hooray

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28 comments

  1. Sounds like the book might live up to that marvellous cover. I googled before commenting – ‘fat assassins’ appears to be a diet pill – and I think I can get Fat Assassins for 1.03 Australian on kindle or free on Audible. I’ll try both (when I get a day off later in the week) and let you know how I go.

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  2. Oh, fabulous – you found a good one! I love that cover, too. But how telling that it was self-published: I wonder what the story is there (I self-publish because I have control and the process is quicker, let’s hope that’s the reason here, too). The world-building sounds excellent – is there a lot of violence in it, though? I’m guessing not as you don’t have a warning for it.

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  3. I’m so happy you liked this book; it sounds like a lot of fun, and I don’t doubt that contacting the author really made her day. Sometimes they need more motivation than we think, ya know?

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    • Especially an author who is doing something different than market tends, which I think is brave. I hear so much about YA authors especially looking at market trends to sell fiction, which prevents stories from changing organically with the culture.

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  4. I love the exchange between you and the author! I’ll definitely buy this one and everything else she writes. I love supporting self-published authors, especially when they write books that mainstream publishers tend to ignore or do badly.

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  5. This sounds fantastic – I am between ereaders at the moment, but I’ll have to put it on my list to get as soon as I can. I’m so glad you found it! And what a brilliant story of encouraging the author.

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  6. See now, the “what is WV if not extreme” line has me a bit concerned. It’s really hard to find books that take place in WV without running into all the major stereotypes. Does this one seem to be a “real take” on rural life or does it play up the “hick” angle? Cuz it sounds like a fun book, but I don’t want to read it if I have to deal with a bunch of “marrying your cousin/toothless/shoeless/outhouse/can’t read” jokes. I get enough of those in real life.

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    • It’s none of the marrying your cousin/toothless/shoeless/outhouse/can’t read stuff. In fact, it reminded me of my time as a kid in central Michigan where we filled the hours getting into all kinds of shenanigans of the home-grown type. None of the characters struck me as stupid, though there are some scenes in Wal-Mart that may be bothersome (though I found them realistic based on my experiences in Wal-Mart). When I think of West Virginia as “extreme,” what I mean is I never think of it as a place where people do things half way. If they’re going to do something, even if it’s not the best plan, they do it 100%. The characters always have logic behind what they do, even if it’s not the best logic. I’m not from West Virginia, but I do know a bit about the strange people you’ll meet in rural areas, and I didn’t find it offensive. I get more defensive when writers suggest people who live in rural areas are less-than-human, bigots, trailer trash, or live in poverty because their line of work didn’t come after college. I didn’t see any of those things. I hope this answer helps!

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  7. I’m so glad this turned out to be a good one. Because the cover is so colourful, I keep thinking it’s a graphic novel, but it’s not, is it? It might make a good one.
    Looking forward to the next installment!
    Oh, and what a great story about tracking down the author. 🙂

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