Marisa Meltzer began her first diet at the age of five. Growing up an indoors-loving child in Northern California, she learned from an early age that weight was the one part of her life she could neither change nor even really understand.
Fast forward nearly four decades. Marisa, also a contributor to the New Yorker and the New York Times, comes across an obituary for Jean Nidetch, the Queens, New York housewife who founded Weight Watchers in 1963. Weaving Jean’s incredible story as weight loss maven and pathbreaking entrepreneur with Marisa’s own journey through Weight Watchers, she chronicles the deep parallels, and enduring frustrations, in each woman’s decades-long efforts to lose weight and keep it off. The result is funny, unexpected, and unforgettable: a testament to how transformation goes far beyond a number on the scale.

A journey that kept me intrigued throughout, This Is Big follows the alternating stories of Jean Nidetch, founder of Weight Watchers, and our author Marisa Meltzer. The anecdotal tales resonated in many ways, as I could recall my own relationship with food over the years, from constantly trying to lose the extra ten pounds during high school to more weight loss following pregnancies. Then the constant maintenance required once food and weight become the center of our lives.

As I read the stories, I was reminded of my struggles over the years, and how in recent years, I found myself trying one weight loss program after another, from Jenny Craig to individual diet plans I discovered in books and magazines. Nothing seemed to help with a long-term maintenance plan, but as I read about Weight Watchers, I realized I hadn’t ever tried that one. I did know that sharing stories with others was an important component of weight loss and maintenance success. Like addicts who go to Twelve Step meetings.

I enjoyed the author’s style and her ability to weave the relevant messaging into the stories she shared…and how she found solutions that worked for her. I also liked how the industry changes moved from dieting to weight loss to wellness…and then to making choices on our own terms. A great journey! 5 stars..#2021ReadNonFic




Andrea Cooper knows everything about her mother Laura. She’s knows she’s spent her whole life in the small beachside town of Gullaway Island; she knows she’s never wanted anything more than to live a quiet life as a pillar of the community; she knows she’s never kept a secret in her life. Because we all know our mothers, don’t we?

But all that changes when a Saturday afternoon trip to the mall explodes into violence and Andrea suddenly sees a completely different side to Laura. Because it turns out that before Laura was Laura, she was someone completely different. For nearly thirty years she’s been hiding from her previous identity, lying low in the hope that no one will ever find her. But now she’s been exposed, and nothing will ever be the same again.

Twenty-four hours later Laura is in the hospital, shot by an intruder who’s spent thirty years trying to track her down and discover what she knows. Andrea is on a desperate journey following the breadcrumbs of her mother’s past. And if she can’t uncover the secrets hidden there, there may be no future for either one of them. . . .

My Thoughts: I was drawn into Pieces of Her because I loved the premise of the chasm between mothers and daughters, and how they keep parts of themselves hidden, even from those they love.

In her daughter Andrea’s eyes, Laura Oliver has had an ordinary existence, but then a violent episode in the mall drastically changes that view. Afterwards, Laura tells her daughter she needs to move out, now that she is thirty-one, and make it on her own. Blindsided by her mother’s actions, both at the mall and then afterwards, Andrea resists.

But suddenly something even more troubling happens a day later that sends Andrea on a quest to find answers. Her mother has given her very specific guidelines of where to go, and how to stay safe. Everything about these actions changes not only her view of her mother, but of her own existence.

I found this part of the novel intriguing, as Andrea tried to stay ahead of the danger, but kept finding herself in the midst of it because she had forgotten to do one or two of the things her mother had suggested.

Obviously Laura had quite a journey in her younger years, but it will take Andrea’s numerous and sometimes dangerous efforts to learn what her mother had done back then…and how she managed to survive.

The story also reminded me a little of other cults we saw in the 70s and 80s, and how the groups depend on the leadership of charismatic and dangerous men.

Who was Laura Oliver, and what were her defining moments? How did she manage to escape, and what did she still need to do to protect her daughter. An engaging read. 4.5 stars.



1977 - Rain & Heather

Happy birthday to my baby girl, Heather!  Above, she is ten months old, and we were enjoying a get-away along the Central Coast.  That shot was taken in Solvang.


Below, she is age three….Her hair looks like that because I had braided it, and then brushed it out, trying for a flower child style…probably not her best look.




heather at three


Fast-forward through the years:  her oldest brother, Craig, a photographer, captured her against this wall in a grungy look.  She was fifteen, and really hates that hairstyle now.





Several years later, she went to Pismo Beach to get married, and her two-year-old, Noah, showed off his blond curls for the occasion….



heather and noah at Pismo Beach


There have been many occasions with photos of Heather, but here’s the last one I took, earlier this week, when we celebrated her birthday early.  Now she is on a cruise, with fiance and friends, celebrating 40 years!



Heather's birthday lunch - 2016


She was born on Friday the 13th, in August 1976.  Many happy returns!


This post is linked to West Metro Mommy Reads.