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Book review: 'Stranger Here' documents weight-loss surgery experience

By Rosemarie Howard

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, March 2 2013 1:30 p.m. MST

"STRANGER HERE: How Weight-Loss Surgery Transformed My Body and Messed with My Head," by Jen Larsen, Seal Press, $16, 280 pages (nf)

“Stranger Here: How Weight-Loss Surgery Transformed My Body and Messed with My Head,” by Ogden resident Jen Larsen, is the straightforward, personal account of one woman’s battle with weight.

Larsen writes with candor about her struggles with weight, her decision to undergo weight-loss surgery and the aftermath.

After trying many diets and weight-loss programs, as well as just trying to accept the fact that she was always going to be obese, Larsen found a website promoting weight-loss surgery.

“It made so much sense,” Larsen writes. “I didn’t have to be strong. I just had to get surgery.”

In 2006, when the surgery was performed, she weighed 316 pounds. During the next year she lost almost 200 pounds.

Although she lost weight, how she felt about herself did not change. “I looked for something outside of me to fix everything,” Larsen writes. “I looked for happiness as if someone could hand it to me in a package.”

The author tells her story in first person. Her writing is frank and engaging. She shares her experience of making the decision to undergo weight-loss surgery in detail and does not spare many details as she describes her recovery and her attempts to adjust to a new way of thinking about food and herself.

Finding a way to live with her “new” body and be happy has not been easy. But she has come to this conclusion: “Whatever size and shape you are, it is absolutely vital that you are happy with yourself.”

The text contains commonly used swear words. Unmarried sex and the frequent use of alcohol and tobacco are accepted as the norm. There are graphic descriptions of what it feels like to get a tattoo.

Jen Larsen currently lives in Ogden and has an MFA in creative writing from the University of San Francisco. Her work has appeared in publications such as “Strange Horizons,” “Word Riot” and “South Loop Review.” Her personal blog is at jenlarsen.net.

If you go ...

What: Jen Larsen book signing

When: Wednesday, March 6, 7 p.m.

Where: The King's English, 1511 S. 1500 East, Salt Lake City

Web: kingsenglish.com

Note: Places in the signing line are reserved for those who purchase the featured book from The King's English.

Rosemarie Howard lives in a 100-year-old house on Main Street, Springville. She enjoys creating multimedia projects. Her website is at dramaticdimensions.com.

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