Review: ‘The Elephant in the Room,’ by Tommy Tomlinson

"The Elephant in the Room: One Fat Man's Quest to Get Smaller in a Growing America" by Tommy Tomlinson; Simon & Schuster (244 pages, $27)

At 460 pounds, Tommy Tomlinson is severely obese, but his book is for anyone severely human. It's not a weight-loss memoir or a miracle fitness book but instead an achingly honest window into the lives of those who, quite literally, don't fit.

He describes his size in unflinching detail and what it means for airplanes, public restrooms, restaurant booths, clothing stores – in other words, everyday life. A sportswriter, he's a gifted and witty storyteller, whether writing about the South, music, journalism, sports, or of course, food. He describes it, particularly junk food, in all its empty-calorie drive-through addictiveness, with such raw and disarming detail that you blush with him in his failures and like him all the more for sharing them. When he dives into his family history with food, all deep-fried or heavy with sugar, there's no ancestral blame for his own habits, just devotion to the people he adores – and, sadly, shame and hatred for himself. His words about his wife overflow with love and appreciation, along with regret for the state of his own health and a desire to do better. Even though this isn't a rah-rah diet book, I'm cheering for the author.