Robbie Smith tries walking a mile in another woman’s shoes to validate her master’s degree research. Even though her professor doesn’t approve, Robbie disguises herself and moves in the world as a large woman, because the women in her research group declare, “You will never know what it’s like to be fat.”
All Jake Proctor wants to do is to spend as much time as he can with his dying grandfather Frank, the only father he’s ever known.
While in and out of disguise, Robbie sees Frank and Jake. Robbie is drawn to the tall, dark, kind man in her neighborhood, but she can’t divulge the truth about her oversized self and jeopardize all the hard work she’s put into her research. She has to see her thesis through to the bitter end. Even if it means deceiving the man she’s grown to care about.
Woman of Substance by Annette Bower
Review by Mary Maxwell
The imagination and delightful sense of humour inherent in this novel makes the experience of reading Woman of Substance both enjoyable and informative. Bower displays insight and sensitivity into the world of large women who daily confront challenges of judgement, ridicule, and misunderstanding.
Author Annette Bower has created an interesting character in Robbie Mary Smith who disguises herself in a custom-made two-hundred pound fat suit to become Robin Smyth. As research for her Masters thesis, Robbie creates a secret identity, an alter-ego, named Robin, explores how to rent a suit, including a polyester torso, latex neck roll, apron belly, that allows the disguise, and sends herself out into the world to experience life as a woman of size. Robbie, the student, meets regularly with a group of such women, who agree to be part of the study. She consults with them on how to manage life as her transformed self. The dialogue is sharp, funny, and revealing. I loved these women.
What Robbie doesn’t expect is that, while conducting this study, she will fall in love. Robin meets Frank Proctor, a widower, when she falls down while in the fat suit, and is unable to get up; Robbie falls in love with his grandson, Jake a single, handsome academic who cares deeply for his granddad. The love story is a surprise both for Robbie/Robin and the reader and Bower handles its complications with tenderness and a lively sense of humour.
What makes this story stand out is that it’s entirely believable and fun to read. I was genuinely interested in the characters and wondered what would happen so it kept me turning the pages. I was glad to get back to the book, whenever I could.