The Defense by Stacey Lynn Schlegl

Samantha is a beautiful and successful graduate student, clinic volunteer, makes meals for neighbors in need, spends time visiting the elderly and is brutally berated by her mother, who can’t seem to see the compassionate, loving person inside her daughter’s plus-sized body. After surviving a brutal rape, Sam puts on weight as a way to keep her safe, all the while never daring to hope that love will see past her size 18 body and love the woman inside. Her mother’s constant emotional abuse keeps Sam in a state of upheaval.

Bruce, a Korean student who knew Sam before the attack and subsequent weight gain wants a chance at breaking through her defense. Working on a school project with her finally gives him a way to get close to her and discover just how special a woman she is.

This is a beautiful and touching story of self acceptance, forgiveness, inspiration and unconditional love, no matter your size, sex, color or race. Samantha is a character that anyone can relate to and feel sympathy for. In a society, where size 18 is more common than a size 8, people of the larger size are looked down upon because what’s inside of them isn’t as easy to see. It’s easy to have compassion for Sam’s plight because we’ve all been a book judged only by our cover.

Bruce is the kind of man we all dream of. His acceptance of Sam no matter what her size helps her to learn to love herself and gives her self esteem much needed support. He is a mirror that reflects the truth back to Sam. The truth she was afraid to see.

While the ideas proffered in this story are touching and motivating, I was disappointed by the writing style. The dialog was rather robotic and stunted. The characters didn’t speak with the flow of a regular conversation. It felt rather simplistic and took me out of the story. I loved what the author was saying, I just didn’t always enjoy the way she said it.

The end was every little girl’s dream come true, however it felt entirely too rushed. The final fifteen pages could have been stretched into a very satisfying thirty at least. It was gratifying to see Samantha come so far and become comfortable in her own skin and gain self confidence. I love endings that tie up loose ends with a pretty bow, but Samantha and Bruce worked so hard to have it all end so abruptly. I was a greedy reader who wanted more detail in their “happily ever after” than just ‘happily ever after’.

Overall the message was inspiring and important for women in particular. I hope readers enjoy this book, because even with its flaws, I did.

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