Reading Group Guide
1. Explore the ways in which these two sisters view each other, and each one's own perspective on their shared experiences. Discuss your own experiences of a sibling relationship.
2. Obese people have a certain invisibility in our society, which is ironic considering how exposed they feel. Obesity is a public disease, impossible to conceal, even while those around them tend to ignore what makes them uncomfortable. Discuss the public/private aspects of being fat.
3. Wilensky finds that "the less you think about how other people see you, the more clearly you come to see yourself." How has Alison's persona been formed by this principle?
4. Consequently, Amy learns much about herself through her sister. Observing their parents with their own siblings also provides insight into her relationship with Alison. Discuss these various family dynamics.
5. It is a common belief that birth order has a great influence over personality. For example, the fist-born is often more jealous, anxious and neurotic, the second more playful and assertive. How does this manifest itself in the Wilenskys, and in your own family?
6. Compulsive behavior runs in the Wilensky family-Amy's twitch and Tourretic tic, her father's issueswith his own weight. Is Alison's obesity an eating disorder beyond her control, an emotional problem that merely took a different form in her sister and in their father?
7. Once the surgery is completed the life of the family continues to revolve around Alison. Is Amy jealous of the attention Alison receives from her mother? Is she envious of her sister's new thinness and the fact that they can wear the same clothes? Discuss the difficulties of growing up in a household that revolves around the demands of one member.
8. Both sisters have trouble accepting the fact that the surgery might actually work. At fifteen, Alison lost fifty pounds at the Diet Center but she didn't stick with it. Was she happier being fat? Did Amy not have faith in medicine, or in Alison's history of failure to control her weight? Is Amy's identity threatened by her sister's transformation?
9. Is surgery actually the easy way out? Are there any moral implications?
10. Amy reflects post-surgery, 'how and why do we become the people we are?" Is it naïve to deny that we reflect what and who society tells us we are?
11. Amy evokes the novels of Lewis Carroll, and the Alice in Wonderland tale, in which the older sister's inattention to her younger sibling causes her to the fall down the rabbit hole. Discuss the ways in which these novels reflect the experiences of the Wilensky sisters.