The Thick and The Lean by Chana Porter is part sci-fi, part speculative fiction, part cookbook, and part love story. At its core, it’s a simultaneous celebration of life’s pleasures – including food, sex, community, nature, and reading – and a critique of the things that plague our modern world – namely corporate greed, classism, and the shame we’ve been taught to feel for who we are and what we desire. The story itself is captivating, the characters are wonderful, and the world-building is incredible. Beyond being a great book, The Thick and The Lean also feels important. It asks big questions like what makes a person worthy or good? And where do our societal values come from? Why do we deny ourselves things like food, ambition, and love? And what happens when we embrace our nature, our history, and begin living in a way that’s not only true to ourselves but also better for our world as a whole?
The Thick and The Lean is a small revolution all by itself. It’s a sort of handbook for subtle and not-so-subtle civil dissent, one act at a time, one person at a time. It encourages you to focus on the real important things in life rather than the superficial ones we’ve been taught. The Thick and The Lean was eye-opening in the most refreshing way. It will make you stop and think about body politics, self-esteem, and your body image (not just in terms of weight, but race and fashion as well). While reading, you will start consider your own hunger – for food, for success, for happiness, love, community, equity and equality. And you’ll finish the book knowing that hunger is the most lethal weapon you have in fighting for a better world. Your shame might even melt into pride.
The Thick and The Lean does deal with a lot of heavy topics, but don’t let that deter you. It’s chock full of hope and beauty too. In a world where reality is quite bitter, it’s a story of human kindness, found and chosen family, and the power of a good book. The Thick and The Lean is a buffet of delicious characters, a story meant to be savored and explored. In a word, it’s umami. Don’t deny yourself the pleasure of devouring this book!
The Thick and the Lean by Chana Porter, (List Price: 28.99, Gallery, Saga Press, 9781668000199, April 2023)
Reviewed by Emily Lessig, The Violet Fox Bookshop in Virginia Beach, Virginia