EVERY so often a book comes along which captures your thoughts so well it could have been written with you in mind.
Lisa Ireland's The Shape of Us is one such book as it is centred on four women who meet through an online weight loss program.
Having been involved in something similar, I could relate to everything from the pre-program activities to the types of people you meet in the online forums to the guilt when things don't go as hoped.
I asked Ireland what drew her to this story as it's a bit of a departure from her popular rural romance novels and she said she also has had first-hand experience in online support forums.
"I was surprised at how personal the discussions became in a relatively short period of time," she said.
"The idea of strangers developing intimate friendships with each other fascinated me and it was a concept I wanted to explore further."
The four women we meet in this novel live in different parts of Australia and lead very different lives. There's Mezz, the married small town doctor; Ellie, the gay Englishwoman who moved to Australia to be with her now-distant partner; Kat, a former Bosnian refugee with a young child; and Jewels, a happily married business owner desperate to become a mother.
There's obviously a strong focus on the impact that being overweight has on the women's confidence, relationships and their lives in general, but Ireland delves deeper into the women's struggles with body positivity and their self-image.
"As part of my research I talked to lots of people - mainly women - about dieting, weight loss and body image," Ireland said.
"The thing that struck me the most was that people who had given up on the idea of losing weight were generally happier and more confident than the people who were actively dieting. I read lots about body positivity and am totally convinced that this is a path worth pursuing."
The book also offers an interesting study in the way friendships develop and change over time. Although starting life as online friends, the women become incredibly close and discover they've built solid foundations for support they don't receive elsewhere.
The Shape of Us is a thought-provoking and perceptive glance into the lives of women (and men) grappling with confidence and self-image problems and the impact it has on their lives.
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