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The Divorce Diet

The Divorce Diet

by Ellen Hawley


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Abigail is sure the only thing standing between her and happiness is the weight she gained along with her beloved new baby. Until she instantly loses 170 pounds of husband.

When Thad declares that "this whole marriage thing" is no longer working, a shell-shocked Abigail takes her infant daughter, Rosie, and moves back to her parents' house. Floundering, she turns to an imaginary guru and best friend, the author of her new weight-loss book. But surviving heartache, finding a job, and staying sane as a suddenly single new mom isn't easy, especially on a diet-sorry, life journey.

Make an inventory of your skills, Abigail's guru instructs. Abigail loves cooking and preparing food-real food, not the fatless, joyless dishes her diet prescribes, or the instant-frozen-artificially flavored fare she finds in her mother's kitchen. So far, following everyone else's rules has led to being broke, lonely, and facing a lifetime of poached eggs, faux mayonnaise, and jobs in chain restaurants. What might happen if Abigail followed her own recipe for a good life instead?...

Bitingly funny, wise, and insightful, Ellen Hawley's fresh new novel is an ode to food and self-discovery for any woman who's ever walked away from a relationship-or a diet-to find what true satisfaction is all about.

"Food and love and loss and resilience-and a terrific narrative playfulness-are Hawley's recipe for a slyly entertaining and heartening novel."
--Daniel Menaker, author of The Treatment

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781617734519
Publisher: Kensington
Publication date: 12/30/2014
Pages: 240
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.26(h) x 0.61(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Ellen Hawley has published two previous novels, Open Line (Coffee House Press) and Trip Sheets (Milkweed Editions). Her short fiction and essays have been published in a variety of magazines and anthologies. Ellen has worked as an editor and copy editor, a talk-show host, a cab driver, a waitress, a janitor, an assembler, a file clerk, and for four fun-filled hours, a receptionist. She has also taught creative writing.

Ellen is a native New Yorker who lived in Minnesota for four decades but now resides in Cornwall, UK. For more information about her, please visit or her blog,

Read an Excerpt

The Divorce Diet

By Ellen Hawley


Copyright © 2015 Ellen Hawley
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-61773-452-6



Thad's left for work already and Rosie's asleep. I know this even before I pry my eyes open. He finally understood that taking care of a baby is exhausting and he let me sleep in. Yay, Thad. I feel whole and rested and strong enough to reach under the bed, fish out Losing Weight the Natural Way, and open to the first chapter:

You are embarking on an exciting and important Life Journey, the book says. By taking control of what you eat, you are taking the first step toward becoming the person you want to be. Before you begin your journey, weigh yourself, unclothed, so that later on you'll be able to see how far you've traveled.

Right. New person. Control. Journey. Today is the first day of whatever. Step one, then: Get myself out of bed.

I toss my nightshirt on the bathroom floor and stand frozen in front of the scale like a furless and hefty squirrel panicked by an oncoming car.

Go on, a voice in my head says. Knowing what you weigh won't make you one ounce heavier.

It's the voice of my diet book, like a wise and kind friend who has no problems of her own to distract her from mine.

I step on the scale.

Now open your eyes, my new best friend says. And look down.

I look. And because I have a new friend to support me, I don't even scream.

Starting weight: 168.5.

It's okay, my invisible friend says. This is only your starting point.

Yeah, I tell her, but my starting point used to be a hundred and goddamn twenty.

And whose fault is that? she says.

Sorry, I mumble, but she's already gone.

I toe the scale back into place—Thad won't care, but even so I don't want him to know I've been weighing myself—and I get dressed. Already my new best friend hates me and has gone out somewhere. Without me. To a no-breakfast meeting, where she doesn't even want to eat. Where she doesn't care that I need to talk to her.

To hell with her, then. I invented her anyway.

I open the diet book.

It's okay, I read. This is only your starting point.

Freaky. Didn't I just make that up?

Remember, the book says, you're going to become the person you want to be. Take a minute to think about who that person is.

I take a minute, since Rosie's not awake yet, but all I can come up with is a memory of Thad yesterday morning, saying I was turning into a bit of a pudge.

Never mind. We'd over-discussed our relationship. We both said things we shouldn't have. It was my fault as much as his. He didn't mean it to sound like it did.

And besides, it's true. Ever since I got pregnant.

See, that's a beginning.

My invisible friend is back. She's forgiven me.

Already you know you don't want to be a pudge.

It took me nine months to put the weight on, I say, so I get nine to take it off. Right?

She doesn't answer, so I fill in for her.

Sure you do, I say in my chirpiest voice. You've used up seven, but that still leaves two luxurious months, so there's no pressure at all.

I wait for her to say no, we count from today and I get the full nine. When she doesn't, I take it as a sign that she's not really inside my head.

I'm relieved.

I'm disappointed. I was enjoying the company.

Where do you disappear to when I want to talk? I ask.

There's no answer, so I turn to her hardcover self.

Following the Natural Weight Loss Plan takes time and energy at first, she says. Soon it will become second nature, but right now you need to focus on two simple things: Follow the meal plans conscientiously, and keep an honest and accurate log of everything you eat and all the exercise you get.

That's all. Just those two things.

Fine, then. Meal plan; log. Soon it will all seem natural. The person I want to become is not a pudge. The person I want to become finds it natural to write down everything she eats and does.

I'm not sure I like the person I want to become.

This is not a helpful thought and I put it aside, which is easy to do since Rosie just woke up.

I lift Rosie from the crib, change her, and set her on the kitchen floor to whack at the linoleum with a plastic duck. This gives me a minute to check my meal plan.

Breakfast is one slice of whole wheat toast, one poached egg, and a banana. I've never poached an egg in my life, not because I can't, but because poached eggs are disgusting. Still, if I'm going to follow this diet I want to do it right.

My mother's ancient Settlement Cook Book says to add salt and a touch of vinegar to the poaching water. I break the egg into a saucer, and when the water boils I slide the egg in. The kitchen smells like Easter eggs.

No, more like Easter eggs with dirty diapers.

"You didn't," I say to Rosie. "Not when Mama's cooking herself the most beautiful poached yuck."

She did, though, and she did it thoroughly, dirtying her diaper, her sleeper, the floor, and the plastic duck, defying the laws of gravity, physics, and probability, all in one shot.

I hold her at arm's length and rush to the changing table. I rinse the diaper—if there's one thing I believe in it's cloth diapers—the sleeper, the hind end, the middle end, and a fair portion of the legs, along with the hands, the wrists, and the duck.

The smell of burnt egg overpowers the smell of diaper and the smoke detector shrieks. I diaper Rosie, wash my hands, turn off the burner, and yank the battery out of the smoke detector.

The house goes very, very quiet.

I wash the kitchen floor while Rosie whacks her plastic duck against the tile.

Even when I'm running a soapy mop across them, I love the tiles Thad and I chose. I love this kitchen, this house, this baby.

I kiss Rosie and scrub my hands.

Calories burned: 27; maybe even 28.

I scrape burnt egg into the trash.

Soon I will become a person who loves poached eggs, but since it will happen naturally, I don't have to force it. In the meantime, I'm happy to cut myself a slice of bread, grab an old notebook, and write down what I'm about to eat.

Breakfast: coffee, black; 1 slice of dry multigrain toast from a loaf I bought yesterday at this great little neighborhood bakery that doesn't use preservatives. I believe in bakeries that don't use preservatives. I believe in neighborhood stores.

Exercise: I promise myself and my new best friend that I will be meticulous about keeping my food and exercise log, but first I slot Rosie into her highchair and hold a spoonful of baby cereal in front of the spot where her mouth was just a second ago.

I say, "Mmmm."

I move the spoon to the new spot where her mouth used to be and she moves her mouth to a third spot.

I pretend to eat the spoonful of cereal.

I say, "This is so good."

I hold the spoon out.

Rosie turns her head toward the window. I move the spoon. She blows a raspberry. She learned to do this a couple of weeks ago. At the time, I thought it was charming.


Excerpted from The Divorce Diet by Ellen Hawley. Copyright © 2015 Ellen Hawley. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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