Conversations with the Fat Girl by Liza Palmer

I haven’t figured out Liza Palmer (she/her) as an author yet. In her novel The F Word we get a character who used to be fat and is now thin, but psychologically still living as a fat woman. I liked the way the character thought being thin would change everything for her, neglecting the way the brain adapts to survive, and being skinny didn’t change her thoughts. But in Palmer’s novel about Maggie, titled Conversations with the Fat Girl, I was hoping to get into the mid of a woman living in a fat body and navigating all the challenges of life while combating the prejudices of a fatphobic society. Or, you know, maybe just being happy. I did not get that.

To get it out there, I did not finish Conversations with the Fat Girl. I stopped on page 176, which is more than halfway through. Here’s the problem: some folks cling to victimhood without realizing they are also a perpetrator of harm. While Maggie feels that people are staring at her “Area” (a term I loathed) and judging her — that she’ll never get married or have babies, that she can’t use her master’s in museum archiving because she’s too big — she was a complete shit to other people. Judging? Check. Petty? Definitely. Empathetic? Erm, no.

The co-worker on whom she has a crush, Domenic, has been hanging out with Maggie, asking her if she’s coming to the work party or if she needs help moving. These are all signs he likes her, at least as a friend, if not more. But when they arrange a date, Maggie proves herself unworthy of dating because she’s so mean. Domenic shows up and gives a silly greeting:

“Helloo,” Domenic says in a faux British accent.

Interesting. Not the most attractive habit. Accents? Keep him golden, Maggie. Keep him golden. That was not a deal breaker. Talk yourself down, girl.

And what does she mean by “golden”? Maggie fantasizes about guys she likes, sloughing away flaws and creating an imaginary perfect boyfriend. When in real life the guy does anything that doesn’t fit with her fantasy, she mentally dumps them and moves on to a new crush. Should anyone date Maggie, surely they would break up immediately over something stupid. I mean, she has to talk herself down? I couldn’t wrap my head around how ridiculous that was. You might even argue that Maggie self-sabotages because she’s so shallow:

“Do you want to drive?” Domenic asks.

“Sure.” Might as well, I’m obviously the man tonight. We’ll talk about the Dodgers and maybe throw in some dish about supermodels being hot. What fun.

So, she’s sexist and petty and can’t figure out why Domenic doesn’t just fall in love with her. In fact, she’s judgmental about him having roommates and working as a busboy in a cafe . . . the same cafe where she works as a barista despite having a master’s degree.

Meanwhile, Maggie’s best friend from high school, who got bariatric surgery and is a size two (a fact we’re told repeatedly) is getting married. The friend asks questions like which wedding dress makes her look the most size two. It’s obvious the friend isn’t eating and doesn’t love her fiance, but he’s “perfect” because he’s blond and tan and a doctor. When are authors going to stop feeding us this stupid line about the perfect doctor husband? Read anything online about doctors and you’ll see they’re largely married to their work, stressed, and miss their children. But of course, Maggie feels jealous and left out, despite being the maid of honor.

Just a really sad, disappointing book that emphasizes how feeling self-conscious and mistreated doesn’t make a person kind toward others.

CW: sizeism, fatphobia, eating disorders


  1. Well, I don’t think Maggie is someone I would want to spend a whole book with! Those quotes do sound unpleasant and I’m not surprised you didn’t finish this. What a shame though!


    • I don’t get how this book is the author’s “baby” when she wrote a much more considered character in a different novel. Whatever happens to Maggie, I don’t think it will be anything empowering.


  2. Yuck. I looked it up to see when it came out because it just has the sound (and look) of an older book. 2005. Sounds about right. If it was the late ’90’s I wouldn’t have been surprised. Seems like the kind of book that is already outdated. Hooray for the DNF!


  3. Sounds like a huge bummer! Being married to a doctor in regard to money, great. Everything else? Not so much. I wish the doctor cheating with a nurse was a cliche, but I’ve heard about it too many times from people I know for it to be.
    Honestly, if I was on a date and the guy did something silly to break the ice, I would be grateful, and it would probably make me like him more.
    This MC sounds like she believes everything society tells her she should, while being upset when it judges her. That’s a miserable existence.


  4. Sorry I needed a push from Sunday Lowdown to come back and see what I missed. Good review, you stated clearly why the book doesn’t work.
    Good on Nick for being determined to stand out (I always carry a book).


    • Hey, the Sunday Lowdown works! Happy dances abound!

      May I suggest adding a pipe? There’s something dapper about a pipe, and Nick used to have many of those. He also had yo-yo’s but those never made a public appearance.


  5. Yikes! Maggie sounds hard to spend time with! I can think of people I know/knew in real life though who desperately wanted to be in relationships but seemed to be looking for absolute perfection and were unable to look past reasonable flaws in other human beings. That part rings true to me but it still isn’t a character I’d want to hang out with.


    • I’ve known people like Maggie myself. Less about the relationships and more about being judgmental of everyone else, the learned helplessness, etc. To be fair, I know that I’ve been a highly judgmental person, but part of that was me navigating anxiety I did not know I had. I was looking for whatever my brain thought was normal and fleeing from whatever was different.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Oh boy, what a downer. Maggie sounds pretty awful, and all her judgements, even if they are only expressed internally, would definitely grate on my nerves. No wonder you DNFd this one.


    • I do think that our interior thoughts teach us how to behave. If we continue with a negative thought, it affects other aspects of ourselves. For instance, I got the weird suspicion that Maggie no longer trusted Dominic as a human being because he was a little silly. Like this guy would reliably fail her.

      Liked by 1 person

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