When Evelyn May’s longtime boyfriend proposes to her at work, Evie says “yes,” then runs into the ladies’ room and throws up. It’s the less-than-perfect beginning to her odyssey toward marriage, and the very funny beginning of debut author Jackie Rose’s Slim Chance.
Despite her initial reaction, Evie is thrilled about the wedding, at least until harsh reality intrudes. She and Bruce want to be married in June, but nothing is available, so they push the wedding date back to August. And when Evie tries on a wedding dress, she looks like “a pregnant white hippopotamus” and realizes she need to lose forty pounds. Okay… more than forty pounds. Eventually Evie attends a sale of Vera Wang bridal gowns and finds the perfect wedding dress. The only problem is, since this is a sample sale, all the dresses are the same size – a size eight. Evie can’t even get the dress over her hips, let alone fastened in the back. She buys it anyway and resolves to lose those extra pounds. Unfortunately, when Evie goes on a diet she becomes an “evil Mrs. Hyde.” She and Bruce begin to fight nonstop.
Before long, Evie is spending every spare moment at the gym. Her resolve is aided in no small part because her personal trainer is a hunk named Jade. As she and Bruce find themselves embroiled in more and more arguments, Evie turns to Jade for consolation. Her amoral best friend Morgan suggests a meaningless sexual interlude with Jade, before she gets married. (“If you want to have a fling, then this is the time to do it.”) Meanwhile, Evie’s on probation at work and in real danger of losing her job. So even though her fitness program is on track, everything else in her life is falling apart – and neither Evie’s best friend nor her mother is much help. In fact, talking to her mother just makes Evie feel like she wants to stick her head in the oven. To which her mother helpfully replies, “You have an electric oven, dear. You’d know that if you’d ever used it.”
Slim Chance was a pleasant surprise. This is a Chick Lit book that manages to be humorous and real at the same time. Evie is funny (her habit of quoting fashion magazine articles that relate to her life is very amusing), but she’s also a totally believable character. She thinks that losing weight will solve all her problems, but as she loses those pounds she discovers a whole host of new problems instead. She’s so desperate to lose weight that she actually takes up smoking in order to lose the last few stubborn pounds. Bruce thinks she has an eating disorder (an idea she pooh-poohs while eating nothing more than a handful of Cheerios for lunch) and is irritated by her expenditures – she naturally has to buy a new wardrobe, including rather expensive shoes. (Her friend Morgan asks wryly, “Exactly how much weight have your feet lost?”) And Bruce is right – she’s sinking rapidly under the weight of a mountain of debt, a problem that’s worsened by her very shaky situation at work.
Bruce is an intriguing, well-rounded character as well. He tries his best to stick with Evie, despite all the new obstacles that have sprung up in their relationship, and he clearly loves her. My only problem with the book, however, was that Evie always wound up blaming herself for the problems in their relationship. Evie does act like a complete lunatic on more than one occasion, but Bruce is partly to blame for their deteriorating relationship. For example, when Evie cuts and dyes her hair blonde to celebrate losing all that weight, Bruce hits the ceiling. He yells, “I go away for two days and this this is what I come back to? A stranger in my fiancee’s body? Oh, excuse me – it’s not even your body anymore!” Admittedly this is the boiling point of a long, complex set of issues, but it’s not exactly a positive, supportive reaction, and I couldn’t blame Evie for her own anger. Frankly, Bruce does seem to be threatened by Evie’s weight loss. Every problem in this relationship isn’t Evie’s fault, yet the book seems to suggest that Evie has caused all the problems.
Despite that, Slim Chance is a very amusing and interesting read. The book is a bit ambiguous – the question of whether or not Evie has an eating disorder, for example, is pretty much left up to the reader to determine – and the ending is a bit ambiguous, as well. But that’s okay. This isn’t romance, it’s Chick Lit, and a darned good example of the genre.