HUNGRY FOR HAPPINESS

James Villas

In his beguiling and powerful new novel, the award-winning author of Dancing in the Lowcountry serves up a story of friendship, Southern food, dreams, and determination.

Loretta Crawford grew up in a family where lives are small and appetites are big, and where the cure for what ails you can usually be found in a plate of hot biscuits or a slice of rich pound cake. The results show all too clearly on her 5’4″, 280-pound frame. Until one day, Loretta realizes she’s had enough—enough of her mama’s sugarcoated putdowns and of feeling unattractive, and enough of being called “Bubbles”

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In his beguiling and powerful new novel, the award-winning author of Dancing in the Lowcountry serves up a story of friendship, Southern food, dreams, and determination.

Loretta Crawford grew up in a family where lives are small and appetites are big, and where the cure for what ails you can usually be found in a plate of hot biscuits or a slice of rich pound cake. The results show all too clearly on her 5’4″, 280-pound frame. Until one day, Loretta realizes she’s had enough—enough of her mama’s sugarcoated putdowns and of feeling unattractive, and enough of being called “Bubbles” when she blows her saxophone at Ziggy’s club.

The final indignity comes when her loser husband, Lyman, leaves her for another woman. Down but determined, Loretta opts for weight loss surgery. As her size plummets, her horizons expand. Men look at her with desire instead of derision, and the catering business that was once a hobby begins to take off in earnest…

The fact is, no one in Houston can cook as well as Loretta, whether it’s spicy shrimp Creole or delectable pecan wafers. Soon, the food that was her downfall promises to be her key to success. But the closer she gets to attaining the life she’s always dreamed of—complete with a new love interest—the messier things become. Once, Loretta was sure that happiness, or something close to it, would be found in her first pair of skinny jeans. The reality isn’t just complicated—it’s surprising, heartbreaking, and ultimately liberating.

Moving, witty, and resolutely uplifting, here is a heroine as real as she is unforgettable, and a story that will resonate with every woman…fat, thin, and every size in between.

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  • Kensington Books
  • Paperback
  • October 2010
  • 352 Pages
  • 9780758228482

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About James Villas

James Villas was the food and wine editor of Town & Country magazine for twenty-seven years. His work has also appeared in Esquire, Gourmet, Bon Appetit, Saveur, The New York Times, and the Atlantic Monthly, among other publications. Two of his cookbooks have been nominated for a James Beard Award. He has also won a James Beard Award twice for journalism and received Bon Appetit’s Food Writer of the Year Award in 2003. James Villas is the author of more than a dozen cookbooks and books on food, including My Mother’s Southern Kitchen and The Glory of Southern Cooking. He’s currently working on his next novel. He lives in East Hampton, New York.

Praise

“… Villas (Dancing in the Lowcountry) follows Loretta’s exuberant transformation with a brassy first-person narration crackling with a Texas blue-collar twang that generally entertains and sometimes annoys.  Villas, an accomplished chef, tacks on authentic Texas recipes as Loretta becomes a larger-than-life wild woman worthy of an encore.”—Publishers Weekly

Discussion Questions

 

Today, Houston is, in many respects, a very cosmopolitan American city, yet Loretta and her working class family and friends might just as well be living in the rugged plains of West Texas. In what ways are the Southern heroine and her brood part of this society’s fabric, and how are they misfits? Does Loretta ever give any indication of wanting to elevate her social status?

 

 

 

Texas women are generally perceived as strong, outspoken, and downright tough, and Loretta is certainly no exception. What might explain this phenomenon, and how is a “Texas gal” different from the South’s proverbial “steel magnolia”?

 

 

 

Lots of people are loosely called “trash” in this novel. What’s the meaning of the term in the context of the narrative, and just how derogatory is it?

 

 

 

Obesity is almost a way of life with Loretta’s family. What has always prevented these individuals from trying to overcome the curse and improve their lives, and why is Loretta different from the others?

 

 

 

Why does Loretta tolerate a mother who, in many respects, is responsible for her daughter’s unhappiness and seems to actually begrudge her happiness? What creates the bond between these two women?

 

 

 

Loretta’s daddy remains a mysterious figure throughout the novel. What is the probable truth about him, and why is he so important to Loretta?

 

 

 

There seems to be a major change in the personality of Loretta’s sister, Gladys, as well as in the two women’s relationship. What might account for this?

 

 

 

Is Lyman’s attraction to Loretta mainly sexual or psychological? Why does he try to get her back?

 

 

 

Vernon has a fetish for fat women. How might he have come by this irregularity, and is it a trait to be condemned? Are there actually more Vernons in this world than society cares to acknowledge?

 

 

 

Is Billy Po a character to be disparaged or admired, and what is his importance in the plot development?

 

 

 

Is weight loss Loretta’s only goal, or are there other desperations from which she’s trying to escape?

 

 

 

What does Loretta strive most to attain: good health, financial security, love, respect, self-esteem, or a stable family life?

 

 

 

Loretta’s feelings about and reaction to children are ambiguous throughout the novel. Does she like children,a nd does she yearn to have any of her own like most women do? Is her devotion to Sugar and Spice and all animals simply a way to fulfill a powerful mother instinct?

14. Why and how are food and cooking so important to

Loretta even after her diet is restricted? Could this

passion be interpreted as a form of masochism? Can

the argument be made that food is at once Loretta’s

downfall and salvation?

 

 

 

It’s pretty obvious that Loretta will evolve into one of the city’s most popular caterers. Will this professional success bring her the happiness and respect she seeks, or are her emotional needs too strong to ignore?

 

 

 

Are there disappointments, frustrations, and desperations that Loretta can be said to share with all young women?

 

 

 

At the end, what is the likelihood that Loretta and Lyman will actually get back together? Is there any chance she would marry him again? If so,why?

 

 

 

At the end, what is the likelihood that Loretta and Lyman will actually get back together? Is there any chance she would marry him again? If so,why?