Arts and Entertainment

‘Beauty’ of a book is a modern-day tale

The Bookworm

“B as in Beauty” by Alberto Ferreras, c. 2009, Grand Central Publishing, $13.99, 335 pages, includes book group guides in English and Spanish.

Your nose is too big.

Most people wouldn’t notice, but you do. And when you look in a mirror, your eyes are like two tiny marbles in a pile of dough and your hair is just – ugh. Everybody tells you how gorgeous your smile is, but you’re pretty sure they’re just being nice. You even hate your ears, if that’s possible.

Don’t even start on your thighs or your tush.

Do you ever wish someone had a magic wand and would – poof! – make you look like a model? In the new book “B as in Beauty” by Alberto Ferreras, a young woman wants exactly that, but she has other lessons to learn first.

As if being fat wasn’t enough, Beauty Maria Zavala’s Cuban-born parents saddled her with a name that definitely didn’t fit. Beauty was willing to acknowledge the fat – it was kind of hard to hide – but the name? Not so much. She told everyone to just call her B. It avoided so much embarrassment.

And as if being fat and having a weird name wasn’t the end of it all, B had a rotten job. For several years, she’d killed herself to do a good job for her evil boss, Bonnie, in the hopes of getting a nice, fat promotion and a corner office. But when B overheard a nasty conversation in the ladies’ room, she realized that was never going to happen.

B hated her job.

So when a Russian tax preparer handed her a business card and called her “beautiful,” well, who could resist calling?

Much like a Fairy Godmother, the Russian woman offered B a new life, with a twist: some men would clearly see past the drab clothes and severe hairdo and they’d pay to spend time with B. No strings attached. No sex. No long-term involvement.

Cautiously, B took the job. Then another. And another.

Soon, she could see that her body was worthy of worship. Her shape wasn’t pleasingly plump, it was just pleasing. Clothes didn’t have to be drab and curly Latina hair didn’t have to be tamed. And a mousy formerly-fat girl really could find happiness by embracing her wonderful name.

Oh, my, but I loved this book.

With a perfectly sweet and funny heroine, a few ugly “sisters,” a borderline-criminal fairy godmother, a handsome carriage driver, a flock of flawed and unwitting helpers and the most unlikely Prince Charming, Ferreras has crafted a modern fairy tale that is absolutely irresistible.

Beauty Zavala is the kind of character you wish was real, just so you could borrow some of her attitude. It’s hard not to feel sad for her predicaments, it’s easy to cheer for her new-found self-confidence and her slam-dunk revenge is the kind of stuff that Hollywood loves. Real, unstilted dialogue makes this book an even bigger joy to read.

If you’re wondering what to pack in your suitcase or overnighter this summer, stop looking and just get this book. For anyone who loves a happy ending, “B as in Beauty” is positively magic.

The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. Terri has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. She lives in West Salem, Wis., with her two dogs and 9,500 books.

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