While he does provide glimpses into the mind of Louise, Dubus relates her story with a clinical objectivity similar to a case study of abnormal behavior, as the opening line, “Her name was Louise,” suggests. It is an appropriate style, for it keeps the reader emotionally detached from feelings of ridicule or pity. The flat narrative tone is designed to increase the reader’s understanding, to give one a series of sketches of Louise from high school, through college, to marriage and childbirth. Everything is narrated, and little, until the end, is dramatized, so the reader will reserve judgment until all the facts are in. It is only when one sees the confrontation between Louise and Richard toward the end of the story that one feels an accumulated pity for and understanding of the protagonist.
The story is told in three sections: Louise’s high school years, her college years and loss of weight, and her marriage to Richard. One might say, in fact, that because parts one and three show Louise as a fat girl, with the story of her thin self sandwiched in between, the construction of the story is a perfect illustration of the old adage, “Inside every fat person is a thin person trying to get out.”