Content Warning: Horrible, “holy shit, what the fuck?” levels of fatphobia; ableism; ignorant portrayals of mental illness; and all around shittyness. Seriously.
Let’s play a game of “Find the Quote that Made Me Rage-Quit this Book” (the page numbers are from the kindle edition, so they may not match the paperback):
The noise of the dogs brought her mother to the door. Because of Lizzie’s tremendous weight, she moved slowly and ponderously, so Kyle was gone by then. Phoenix was glad of that. But it was never easy to contend with her mother. “What the hell’s going on out here?” Lizzie shouted, her words and tone containing the caustic edge she was so famous for.
“I’m hungry,” her mother announced as soon as she was done, so she warmed up some soup, hoping her mother would eat a healthy meal instead of the cheap pizza, soda, chips, cookies and candy she normally consumed. Only when Phoenix had finished cleaning out a small section of her mother’s kitchen—the one part not buried beneath all the things her mother hoarded—did she feel free to return to her own place, and by then it was after two in the afternoon.
Whiskey Creek might not believe that she was innocent of Lori Mansfield’s murder, but at least she’d show them she wasn’t willing to live in filth, like her mother.
Phoenix was still frightened her mother would find out. Lizzie couldn’t bear to part with a single scrap of anything for fear she’d need it later. But she wasn’t as mobile as she used to be.
It wasn’t easy to cook in Lizzie’s trailer. Hemmed in by stacks of packaged goods—trash her mother, for some strange reason, found valuable—plants, a bevy of dog bowls and giant bags of dog kibble and an overlarge hamster cage that took up most of the table, she had barely enough room to move on the sticky linoleum. Maybe that was why her mother never bothered with real food—she could no longer fit in her own kitchen. “What do you mean?”
“Phoenix!” Riley couldn’t see Lizzie, but he could hear her shrieking her daughter’s name, and then, “Where are you? Where the hell is my dinner? You want me to starve in here?”
“That’s enough,” he growled. “I don’t care what you say about me, but watch how you talk to your daughter.”
“Oh, that’s right. You’re the only one who’s allowed to treat her like shit,” she said with a cackle, and backed her considerable bulk into the house.
Lizzie’s chair groaned as she shifted. “Oh, come on.”
Those are half the highlights I made after only reading half the book.
I've been having such a hard time writing this review, because I honestly don't know what to say. Phonenix, the main character, is the patron saint of martyr heroines. I don’t have time to list all the things she goes through, but it’s like Melodrama and Emotional Manipulation had terrible sex together and she’s the result. That alone is crappy writing, but only offensive to those who like to read good books. The mother, on the other hand, takes the story from mediocre to horrible. I could almost feel the hate and ignorance leaking through the pages. She's the villain who hates herself and everyone around her; she abuses her caring daughter; people are disgusted by her appearance and the state of her home, and they will comment about it repeatedly, disdainfully, and yes, sometimes pitifully; she has no personality other than person who yells insults. The source of all that evil? Her weight. This character is a caricature completely stripped of humanity. The way the book treats her is so egregious and unacceptable that I, well, have no words.
That’s it. I have no more energy to give.
Synopsis (Ugh, you guys, look how fucking upbeat the blurb is!):
First love. Second chance? As the daughter of a hoarder, Phoenix Fuller had a tough childhood. So when the handsome, popular Riley Stinson became her boyfriend in high school, she finally felt as though she had something to be proud of. Phoenix was desperate not to lose him-especially once she found out she was pregnant. Yes, she might have acted a bit obsessive when he broke up with her. But she did not run down the girl he started dating next. Unfortunately, there was no way to prove her innocence. Now, after serving her time in prison, Phoenix has been released. All she wants to do is return to Whiskey Creek and get to know her son. But Jacob's father isn't exactly welcoming. Riley doesn't trust Phoenix, doesn't want her in Jacob's life. He is, however, ready to find someone to love. And he wants a good mother for his son. He has no idea that he's about to find both!This Heart of Mine by Brenda Novak
Mira. March 31, 2015.