by Anne Pfeffer
Bold Print Press

"I. Sabrina Hunter, would lose forty pounds by mid-July…"

Sabrina Hunter is driven, creative, and dependable. At twenty-four, she landed a job as an executive assistant to a Hollywood talent agent. However, three years later, she is browbeaten by her unappreciative boss, worried about her troubled sister and her sister's cocaine junkie boyfriend, angry at the mother who abandoned her when she was nine, and… fat! Her chronic overeating started when she took her current job, and now food is her chief comfort in stressful situations. She even keeps a junk food drawer in her desk at work for emotional emergencies.

Sabrina does more than just dream of the day when she's a famous author and can quit her job. She writes manuscripts of steamy romances. Countless rejections by publishers don't deter her. Eventually she succeeds. Fast Track, a publisher that can print her book in three months, wants her story. Her editor wants a recent photo of her to put on the back cover. Unfortunately, the most recent flattering picture of her was forty pounds and three years ago. The company also wants to promote Sabrina's book with a launch party where she will sign copies and meet adoring fans wearing a sexy red evening dress. Sabrina can't tell her editor the truth about her appearance. Under pressure, she sets out to lose forty pounds.

Catastrophic failure in the form of repeated binges brings her to rock bottom when her rehabilitated little sister intervenes, forcing Sabrina to attend a support group for compulsive overeaters. Sabrina discovers that her problems go deeper than her waistline as she grapples with childhood abandonment and emotional neglect by her workaholic father. Coming to terms with her pain includes learning to surf and rediscovering her latent athleticism via participation on the group's softball team. The group itself has its perks. Fellow member Daniel, with his smoldering blue eyes, steals her heart and shows Sabrina that she really can have the man, the job, and the body of her dreams.

Pfeffer lives in Los Angeles and sets all her stories there. Like this book, her others feature characters who mature and learn about themselves as the stories progress. This novella addresses one possible set of deep-seated fears that can lead to insecurity. The primary external manifestation of this insecurity is an unhealthy relationship with food or, in this case, the compulsion to overeat. Sabrina is not the classic willowy beauty featured in most romance novels. Such gorgeous women, including her younger sister, are, in fact, often the targets of her resentment.

Sabrina also has a turbulent relationship with success. Determination gets her fame and fortune but not thinness. Although prone to self-pity, she can still appreciate changes and improvements in the lives of others, including the joint abstinence from drugs and alcohol between her sister and her sister's boyfriend. She is responsive to stern reminders that life is not all about her. The new perspective the support group gives helps her see the personal pain that drives her boss to be cruel: his wife experiences severe mental illness for which she is often hospitalized. Some realizations occur to her without prompting, such as her awareness that she is as critical of other people's appearances as she is afraid they will be of hers.

Sabrina's job revolves around potential and rising celebrities, people whose main goal is self-promotion. As someone seeking to become a bestselling author, she has the same goal. However, Pfeffer contrasts the protagonist in an intersting way with the supporting characters, all of whom have jobs whose ultimate purposes are the betterment of others. Michelle, Sabrina's sponsor in the support group, is a daycare provider. Daniel is an immigration attorney. And as part of their recovery from addiction, even Lena and Stuart work in service industries. Lena is a caterer, while Stuart teaches people to surf.

This story will likely resonate with readers who struggle with social pressure to be thin. Fans of books like Kelsie Stelting's Curvy Girls Can't Date Billionaires and The Fat Girl by Marilyn Sachs may well opt to read this novel, both for Sabrina's journey as well as for the supporting characters who simultaneously follow their own compelling redemptive subplots.

A 2022 Eric Hoffer Book Award Category Finalist

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