Thinner Than Thou by Kit Reed

 

Science Fiction

Thinner than thou Thinner Than ThouKit Reed; Tor 2004WorldCat

Reverend Earl espouses America’s newest religion – thin, young, and beautiful. But don’t be too thin – anorexia is as much of a sin as gluttony. God is in the self – the temple of the body. Religions such as Christianity, Buddism, Muslim, and Jewish have been driven underground. Fitness centers are the new houses of worship. Reverend Earl has special fat farms where the rich can go to lose weight and join the Reverend’s angels that are seen on his infomercials. The Dedicated Sisters take the young, usually girls, and help them get over their eating problems.

At the same time, people are told to eat. Beside every fitness center are fast food chains with super size meals. The shady clubs have fat strip dancers. Gluttony is the secret sin. “The last big sin isn’t overeating. It’s getting fat.”

Annie Abercrombie realized that the only thing she could control is her own body. So she eats less and less, trying to reach an ideal weight. By the time her parents realize she is anorexic, she is under 90 pounds. They send her to the Dedicated Sisters to help her go back to the fit, healthy teen ager she should be. The twins, her 15-year-old younger brother and sister, leave home to find her. Annie’s boyfriend joins them as they drive across country, looking for the hidden Dedicated Sisters’ convents to rescue Annie from them.

Jerry Devlin is a successful broker. But he is fat. He shops at the big and tall men’s stores. When his girlfriend leaves him, he realizes that he needs to lose weight. So he pays a large fee to go to one of the Reverend Earl’s fitness clubs. What he discovers he compares to a maximum security prison. The penitents are treated like slaves. They can’t leave until the expected weight is lost. If they get fit, they might be able to become one of the Reverand’s angels. Jerry has his doubts about that. The men are separated from the women. All are shamed because of their size and their eating habits. This is no fat farm encouraging the members to learn to eat right. This is a prison where the members are not freed until they have met the expectations of the owners and guards.

Marg Abercrombie is angry with herself and her husband. She is no longer able to maintain the “perfect look”. Her husband wants her to have a face lift, the next natural step for adults their age. He also is the one who contacts the Dedicated Sisters to take Annie and cure her. Marg allows him to call them, then is contrite the next day. She ignores her husband’s dictates, climbs into her car, and starts looking for Annie. Somewhere in this country the Dedicated Sisters have facilities to treat anorectics. Annie is in one of those facilities. Her twins are missing. Marg is going to find Annie and bring her home. She knows the twins are looking for Annie as well. They will return when Annie does. Marg finds the strength in herself to take the journey needed to save her children.

I live in Southern California. The future Kit Reed has envisioned in Thinner Than Thou looks very plausible here. Plastic surgeons and dentists advertise on television for the buyers to “look their best”. Multiple fitness centers are found in every community, practically every strip mall, including many 24 hour centers. The movie star look is everywhere. There are also great restaurants that serve large portions. Grocery stores have fitness food and rich chocolate. There are as many fat people as there are extra skinny people. It’s easy to see how a culture like Reverend Earl’s can flourish.

The book’s concept is intriguing and frightening. The book itself tends to plod. The environment feels real. The characters don’t. Yet the story hangs together well and has an eerie message. Thinner Than Thou is an insight into a possible, frightening future. You’ll walk away from this one looking closely at our society, wondering how close we really are to the possibilities predicted.

More books by Kit Reed

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