In the comic novel, The Fattest Mormon, by Tyson Abaroa, lovable loser Phil Carroll travels the country in his Winnebago, entering contests and living off the prize money.
The novel gets off to a rough start with a comic bit about granny who drives like a bad stock car racer. But by the time Phil and his ‘Bago pull into tiny Taylor, Arizona, to enter a weight-loss contest, the story begins to hit its stride.
Stories need a hero with both a dream and a wound. They need villains and tension. Abaroa does not disappoint in this department. Phil wishes to train as a jiu jitsu master in Japan. It’s going to take a lot of prize money, but he just might make it, if he can find enough contests. Oh, and move around enough to throw his enemies off his trail.
He meets a cute trainer with a big dream of her own, but romance is out of the question because of something that happened in Reno.
Phil doesn’t sound all that fat. He loads up on burgers and ice cream sandwiches enough to grow a paunch. But when that cute trainer sends him out to run the miles, he survives her rigors much better than I would.
The characters in Fattest Mormon don’t always act like real people. And Abaroa can leave the reader behind as he writes his way through his jiu jitsu world with little in the way of helpful explanations. Also, our hero Phil parks his Winnebago “in front of something called a Basha’s.” Cheek by jowl with the jiu jitsu studio and a sushi joint, I spent the whole novel puzzled by this appendage to little Taylor’s, um, Asian district. Is it a massage place? A meditation studio? (It’s a local grocery chain. Thank you, Google.)
Also, an almost unwieldy cast of characters troop through the story, not a few of them with aliases.
Still, The Fattest Mormon might just make a cute caper movie. I could almost see the actors delivering their smackdown lines. I could see the quirky townspeople gathered for the final race, or Phil’s face as his nemesis bursts into the story, or his pout as he runs a few more laps under the command of his trainer.
The story has some sweet moments in store for the reader.
And kudos for setting the tale somewhere original. Taylor is one of Arizona’s many Mormon-founded villages. I don’t know about real life, but Abaroa plants the town into a hot rivalry with its neighboring burg, Snowflake. And Phil’s observations on the Mormons — he isn’t one of them, yet — are good for a few chuckles.
I was given a copy of this book in exchange for a review. Advance review copies can still contain typos and formatting errors, but hopefully, they’re all cleaned up for the public version of the book.
Photo credit: foshydog via VisualHunt / CC BY-NC-ND
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