Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5
Max Farrier wanted to follow in the family footsteps and join the Navy once, but he’s better off focusing on just surviving his last year of school and going to work in Aunt Donna’s shop once it’s over.
After an incident at school puts Max in the hospital, Aunt Donna’s had enough. She signs him up for private lessons at a Muay Thai gym. Boxing—she says—will change everything.
But it’s not boxing that starts to poke holes in Max’s stupor—it’s his sparring partner. Cian is fifty percent mouth, fifty percent attitude, and isn’t afraid to go toe-to-toe with a bully in the street. Cian takes what he wants, and doesn’t let anyone stand in his way—not even himself.
Big Man is my first novel by Matthew J. Metzger that I can find. It will definitely not be my last. Big Man is an incredibly moving, deeply impactful story. It recounts one young man’s journey from a state of intense poor self esteem, wanting to hide within the walls of his home due to bullying and his body hatred, to one of happiness, pride, and ability to move forward in life.
It is not always an easy story, especially since the voice is Max’s and as we meet him he’s a beleaguered young man under attack at school. The bullies there are relentless, having just put him into the hospital again. The reader gets the raw account of this very attack right down to the moment he blacks out from Max’s perspective and it so painful. Trust me when I say parts of this book are very difficult to read as it must be for those who are actually bullied. You can actually feel Max’s fear when those three boys approach him. It’s visceral in its ability to churn your stomach and his.
You see Max is a big, gentle man. Read that to be obese as well as large period. He’s called Fatso Farrier at school by the bullies and that name has become ingrained in his mind and soul to the point he can’t move past it. There are other major transitions as well in his life. His beloved grandfather, who stood in for his dad who died with he was a toddler, has passed. They recently moved into his ‘Aunt Donna’s’ house. His mother is happily remarrying… his ‘Aunt Donna’ (not that he has a problem with that, he doesn’t), and he needs to decide his future if he is going back to school for 2 more years. So much on Max at the moment that he’s caught in stasis.
I’m debating saying more here because later in the story so much becomes clear to Max and to the reader at an important juncture. If you are familiar with people fighting with poor body image and/or issues with weight, some may be aware of some of the emotional factors that go along with them. Here those factors are gently clued in, one by one until finally we get the entire package that is Max Farrier, past, present and, yes, future.
I will say that the author seems familiar with these issues and treats Max with sensitivity and compassion while sort of coming at it sideways. By that I mean, Max (and the reader) isn’t seeing the whole picture right up until the end. We are Max. We don’t notice things changing until others tell us. It’s a format that works here beautifully.
One of the ‘people’ telling Max things? His boyfriend Cian. I have no intention of spoiling that wonderful aspect of this story. I’ll just say that character and storyline is an absolute joy. In fact, one of the things about this story is families. What makes a family, finding and creating families. And the love that binds them together. This story is full of that. Max survives because of that, and lives to become the person he was always meant to be. Someone magnificent. A Big Man. Don’t miss out on this story. It’s heartbreakingly wonderful in all the best ways.
Yes, it’s one I highly recommend.
Cover art: Natasha Snow. The ocean is an important element for Max and the story but I wish somehow the cover was different to reflect how amazing this novel was.
ebook, 210 pages
Published April 9th 2018 by NineStar Press