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Etta Mae Rayburn has an epiphany one day while sitting in front of her television eating a bucket of ice cream. What if fat people were psychics because of their fat? There’s been a lot of what-ifs in Etta Mae’s whirring scientific mind… the trouble is testing her theories. But, this latest one should be no problem – she’s fat so maybe if she tries hard enough, Etta Mae might just find out she has psychic abilities too.
She begins by keeping a dream journal (”Seems if I’m trying to tell myself something, I ought to listen”) and looking at her naked self in the mirror, reassuring herself that while “… Etta Mae is fat, fat is not Etta Mae.” And so begins her self-empowerment program of the supernatural kind.
Etta Mae is fat but there’s so much more to Etta Mae – she’s genuinely caring, no matter how people may judge her personality through her overweight body. And her journey through the psychic realm is not about her, but about helping others. When she finally gets in touch with her powers, Etta Mae becomes busy making anonymous phone calls to patch up family disagreements and warning strange teenagers about the consequences of pandering drugs. But Etta Mae has long ago given up on finding a man for herself– after all, most men want a size eight woman, and that she isn’t!
Tim walks in the dentist office where Etta Mae is a receptionist and asks her out. So he’s not perfect; in fact, he’s just like Etta Mae - he’s on the “husky” side (and why are men “husky” while women are fat?!). But, as Etta Mae knows, fat does not make a person, and she gets a glimmer of hope that everything may turn well for her love life after all.
Although Etta Mae finds her man, it’s really not about their relationship as much as it is about Etta Mae being overweight and her resulting low self-esteem. I really don’t mind reading about romances with full-figured characters, but Lori Ann White makes no pretense that Etta Mae isn’t just pleasingly plump, but “… tent dress wearing, lose-your-car-keys-in-the-folds, chafed thigh fat.” And if that isn’t enough, the next fifty-pages only confirms how fat Etta Mae is by the actions of the people around her. (Except for Denise, her deliciously malicious nemesis!)
Etta Mae is lovable with a quirky sense of humor and an intelligent mind, but I feel she deserves something more exciting than just the average nice man (nothing to sneeze at in real life but in romantic fiction… well, it’s not called fiction for nothing!). Or, maybe she doesn’t deserve the standard blown-out-of-your-brains love a la romance novel style since all she seems to do is sit in front of the TV and eat her bucket of ice cream, which is part of her daily routine. As a heroine, she’s got half of the prerequisites – she’s funny, intelligent and loving, but she’s not spunky, or a go-getter, and her lack of self-esteem stemming from being overweight woven throughout the storyline wears thin after awhile (no pun intended!). Maybe it would be a more interesting story if everyone didn’t feel so sorry for the fat woman – or if Etta Mae herself didn’t look for validation of her self-worth from others (like her employer). Maybe this isn’t a romance and I’m looking at it from a wrong perspective!
Still, it wasn’t a hardship to read it – it’s short, well-written with a cute, quirky kind of humor. And the ending is climactic with a surprising twist! If Ms. White were to write a full-figured heroine with a more than average personality and the same sense of humor, and a romance that demands more than just dinner and a movie, I won’t hesitate to pick it up.