by Kimberly Rae Miller
Brilliance Audio, 2017
Review by Christian Perring on Jun 19th 2018
Kim Miller is a writer who works on food and diet, but also runs her own blog, The Kim Challenge Beautiful Bodies is a combination of memoir about her obsession with her weight, and a history and discussion of the weight loss industry. She was sure that she was overweight even as a child and she gained weight early on, combined with early puberty, and this made her very self-conscious. Miller attributes a lot of her weight concern to her mother's attitudes, and of course there is the weight-loss industry that Miller herself ended up working for. Her family is from the south shore of Long Island, NY, and she got her clothes from stores like K-Mart and Target. As she describes in her first memoir, Coming Clean, her father was a hoarder, and she explains how her mother had some serious physical health problems. But she does not say much about how these factors affected her or contributed to her preoccupation with her own body.
Much of the memoir part of the book is about fairly ordinary experiences during her childhood, her professional life, and her romantic life. There is a lot about her experience in a preteen pageant, getting her first period in Middle School. There's a lot about different diets she has tried. And she devotes a lot of space to her relationships with boyfriends. While she is always very focused on her weight, she describes herself as often overweight and occasionally obese. It's a bit hard to know how much to trust her own account: she often describes herself as pathological and rigid in her thinking, but this seems more a stylistic quirk than a clinical fact about herself, and maybe a way to make her story more exceptional.
It is striking that she says almost nothing about her friendships with other girls when these are generally extremely important for teens and young people -- and during the rest of life. But it as if she has no friends outside of her family. It's not clear how she meets her boyfriends, but she describes those relationships much more than any close friendship.
Miller's smattering of facts about the history of diets is more unique and interesting than her account of her own life, but it's not very systematic, and she doesn't seem to have any particular perspective on it all, except that diets do not really work. It's just a collection of striking facts and good stories.
So overall there's not much to Beautiful Bodies. What it does have going for it is that Miller a good writer, and her performance of it in the unabridged audiobook is excellent. She plays down the quirkiness of the text and does not overdo the gags. Her tone is measured and engaging. But when it gets to the parts that mean a lot to her, she really conveys the emotions. So the audiobook is the way to go if you want to read this book.
© 2018 Christian Perring
Christian Perring teaches in NYC.