Are you leery of books with glossy covers featuring high-heeled shoes or bubbling champagne? Hungry Heart: Adventures in Life, Love, and Writing might just force you to ask yourself why. Jennifer Weiner, author of a number of bestsellers, including In Her Shoes, Then Came You, and Best Friends Forever, is quite convincing in her argument that books labeled “chick lit” or “women’s fiction” are not just entertaining, but also have the potential to be groundbreaking. Unfortunately, this goes against conventional wisdom in the book world — there are plenty of professionals and readers who are quick to malign books that have female protagonists living regular lives in modern times. This was even more of a widespread and unexamined tendency when Weiner’s debut novel, Good in Bed, was published in 2002.
Hungry Heart is not just the story of Jennifer Weiner, though it is that as well. Hers is a story recognizable to anyone who grew up Jewish in America after the Holocaust, who didn’t face the same trials as her parents or grandparents, but whose vague sense of displacement spurred a lifetime of striving. It’s also recognizable to anyone who has felt insecure and alone, who has tried to fit in but couldn’t, who believed she could prove herself through achievement. And it’s the story of a fat girl turned fat woman who has created a full life, and found love and success and multiple happily-ever-afters. Weiner describes the moment when her first agent told her that the “lonely, pathetic” protagonist in Good in Bed needed to lose weight. Weiner pushed back. She writes, “I knew so many women who were not skinny and had wonderful, happy, fulfilling lives, with great jobs and friends and family and partners. Why couldn’t I tell a story about one of those girls?”
She has. And that’s what makes this book, and other books written by Jennifer Weiner and writers like her, groundbreaking. Just like her fictional characters, Weiner isn’t a woman who has waited around to be saved. She is who she is, imperfect and worthy of love and happiness. And she has shown through example that yesterday’s outsider can be today’s heroine.
Anna Katz is a freelance writer, ghostwriter, and editor. She is the author of Swimming Holes of Washington, Easy Weekend Getaways from Seattle, and the forthcoming The Art of Ramona Quimby.