Big Brother

Lionel Shriver elevates the "issue novel" by unleashing her literary imagination on the latest controversies--whether she's tackling school shootings from the mind of the shooter's mother (We Need to Talk About Kevin) or looking at a family trying to cope with the American health care system (So Much for That). With Big Brother, Shriver turns to the American obesity epidemic and asks what we owe to our siblings, spouses, and children--and what we are willing to sacrifice.

The novel's protagonist is Pandora Halfdanarson, the daughter of an almost-famous television actor whose claim to fame was a sitcom portraying a facsimile of Pandora's own family. "Refusal to forge views for social consumption made me dull," Pandora says, "but I loved being dull. Being of no earthly interest to anyone had been a lifelong goal." Despite her attempts to remain anonymous in Iowa, however, Pandora has become a successful entrepreneur of hand-crafted, pull-string gift dolls who spout customized exclamations modeled after the recipient ("ridicule paired with affection"). She has found happiness with her husband and his two children. Then her brother arrives--but he's not the dashing, accomplished jazz pianist she expected.

What follows is not just the cutting humor and unflinching wisdom we expect (and find) in all of Shriver's novels, but an unsettling exposé of the myriad ways we deceive ourselves and those we love. --Kristen Galles, blogger at Book Club Classics

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