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Jennifer Weiner, the New York Times best selling author of 20 titles including Good in Bed and Little Earthquakes, has a newly rekindled passion, and so does the main character of her newest book released this week, titled The Breakaway. Lucky for bike-loving fiction fans, that passion is cycling.
Weiner reconnected with her love of cycling during the Covid-19 shutdown and the author's personal rediscovery of the joy of riding bikes definitely influenced the direction of her latest novel.
“As a young woman, I was part of a cycling club here in Philadelphia. I would go on rides. I would go on camping trips. I loved it. And then I had babies, and I learned that it’s really difficult to leave your house for two or three or four hours at a time when you have small children,” Wiener recently told Shondaland.
“The authorities frown (and so does your partner sometimes) on that [laughs]. And so I didn’t get back on my bike until Covid. All of the gyms closed. All of the yoga studios closed. There was nothing, and I exercise a lot for my mental health more than anything else. So, I was like, ‘Oh, my God, I’m going crazy. What am I going to do? I need to get out of this house. I need to breathe fresh air and talk to people that I didn’t give birth to.’ And I went back to the cycling club. They were running daily rides at the time, seven days a week, so I started riding again, and I met a lot of new people. And then I sort of remet a lot of the people I’d ridden with 20 years ago.”
Without giving away too many spoilers, The Breakaway is about Abby, an avid cyclist in Philly, and the familial and romantic dramady that takes place over the course of a cycling trip she is talked into leading along New York’s Empire Trail. Among other themes, the novel “explores how a woman’s relationship with her body is influenced by society’s rules and expectations,” according to NPR.
In a recent interview with the outlet, Weiner gave us a sneak peak into the story.
“So Abby gets a chance to lead this bike tour along the Empire State Trail, which runs from New York City all the way up to Niagara Falls. And then, much to her shock and dismay, her mom shows up on this trip and says, honey, I just want to spend time with you, which is not what Abby wants at all, especially because another surprise participant on this trip is this guy she spent this, like, one hot night with many years ago and never thought she’d see again. And there he is. So we’ve got the two of them with all of this really fraught history about food, about body, about expectations, about how does a woman live happily in the world and what’s going to give her the most choices, the most options.”
Along with being an avid cyclist who spends days on her bike, Abby is also a plus-sized woman, and creating a plus-sized female protagonist who is athletic with a fully developed storyline was extremely important to Weiner.
“As a larger woman, I always wanted stories where the fat girl wasn’t the funny best friend, wasn’t the butt of the jokes and didn’t have to lose a hundred pounds before she got the guy and the happy ending,” Weiner said. “I wanted to write about the women I was seeing in the world who were fat and strong and beautiful and powerful and had great jobs and loving relationships because those were the books I needed when I was 14 and 15 and 16 years old. And those are the books I want my daughter’s generation to have - the books that say that your happy ending is not contingent on your dress size.”
With Labor Day weekend around the corner and summer’s last hurrah approaching quickly, The Breakaway sounds like the perfect bike-themed beach read to close out the season. Sand optional.
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