The book covers about six months in the life of Rosemary, a fifteen year old girl who is just as aware of her weight as the classmates who taunt her - though she is more frustrated with her aunt's pointed remarks about it than those of her peers. Rosemary has grown up in a town where everyone knows everyone, and in a house with her hardworking single mother, who gave birth when she was a teenager herself. Rosemary works alongside her mom at Heavenly Hair, a salon that's always bustling with activity and gossip.
After a particularly indulgent holiday season, Rosemary finds herself pushing 200 pounds and can't comfortably fit into her clothes. She finally decides to lose weight. Though she begins with a crash diet, which worried me, then turned to Pounds-Away shakes and bars, I was relieved and glad when she got back on solid foods and learned to simply be conscious of her food and of portion size. Then, with the help of an unlikely new friend - Kay-Kay, popular, slender, and athletic - she starts to exercise regularly. The two girls go on morning runs together, sharing secrets and silliness, bonding quickly, and Rosemary starts using her treadmill for more than a laundry dump.
Rosemary's journey takes many paths. She starts seeing a therapist to discuss her health and her life. Her mother's illness shakes their world, worrying them both for obvious reasons, though neither is very good at expressing her concerns. Mother and daughter as well as aunt and grandmother reconnect in new ways. Rosemary's first serious boyfriend, Kyle, is kind, athletic, and likable. Her sixteenth birthday is memorable. The other women and men who work at Heavenly Hair are fun. That setting and those scenes will appeal to fans of Steel Magnolias and the poignant novel Beauty Shop for Rent ...fully equipped, inquire within by Laura Bowers. Artichoke's Heart is full of hope, with thoughts in the introduction and conclusion inspired by Emily Dickinson, which will hopefully in turn inspire readers to be healthy, happy, and whole.
Read my interview with author Suzanne Supplee.