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Books: Sibling rivalry steps wittily into ‘Shoes’

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By Jennifer Mattson, Special to USA TODAY

In Her Shoes, Jennifer Weiner’s highly anticipated follow-up to Good in Bed, speaks to women who have endured the hardships of sibling rivalry or dreamed of trying on someone else’s life. It is also an honest look at one woman’s struggle with weight.

But unlike other weight-obsessed characters in contemporary popular fiction, 30-year-old Rose Feller actually is plus-size. She is not like Bridget Jones, who worries about being fat even though her weight is normal. Rose, a smart, wisecracking, successful lawyer in Philadelphia, is most definitely fat.

The book begins when Rose’s dream date is interrupted by a call and she is forced to rescue her drunk, irresponsible sister from a 10-year high school reunion.

Maggie Feller, 28, is quite the opposite of Rose. Maggie is gorgeous and glides effortlessly through life, from one job and boyfriend to the next, until she’s evicted from her apartment. She moves in with Rose, swiping everything from her older sister’s credit cards to her shoes. But Maggie crosses the line by stealing the one thing Rose isn’t willing to share.

In Her Shoes chronicles the sisters’ adventures as they go their separate ways and end up discovering, along the way, a missing part of themselves.

Weiner is at her best with her witty descriptions of the “stepmonster” Sydelle and Rose’s eccentric law firm, where the managing partner has gone off the deep end. Obsessed with extreme sports, Dom Dommel treats his firm like a sports team — replacing the water cooler with Gatorade, meetings with pep rallies and the yearly bonus with a skateboard.

The book has a happy ending, and Weiner avoids selling out Rose by making her thin (and more likable). She finds love and happiness without shedding a pound.

Despite Weiner’s faithful treatment of her characters, In Her Shoes has its disappointments. Rose and Maggie’s search for their long-lost grandmother wraps up too neatly and is annoyingly predictable.

The book is too long and loses energy by the end. In Her Shoes will make readers laugh and perhaps cry, but it’s rough around the edges.

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