Staying Fat For Sarah Byrnes Summary

Chris Crutcher

Staying Fat For Sarah Byrnes

  • Plot overview and analysis written by an experienced literary critic.
  • Full study guide for this title currently under development.
  • To be notified when we launch a full study guide, please contact us.

Staying Fat For Sarah Byrnes Summary

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides that feature detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, quotes, and essay topics.  This one-page guide includes a plot summary and brief analysis of Staying Fat For Sarah Byrnes by Chris Crutcher.

Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes, a 1993 young adult novel by Chris Crutcher, tells the story of a boy who is worried about losing his best friend and the ways that our secrets can ultimately destroy our lives.

Eric “Moby” Calhoun’s best friend, Sarah, is in a mental hospital in a catatonic state. While he is visiting, the staff suggests he reminisce about some of their memories to see if that will help improve her condition. They have been friends for a long time, and he begins to remember some of the things they have been through.

She insists on being called Sarah Byrnes. When they meet, he is extremely overweight, and she has burn scars on her hands and face. Because they are picked on, they rely on each other and create a newspaper,Crispy Pork Rinds. They focus their articles on the bully Dale. What Moby does not know is that Dale and Sarah share a secret. Sarah tells Dale things that she does not tell Moby. As a result, they become friends.

When Eric joins the swim team, the exercise does him good. As he begins to lose weight, he worries about not being an outcast anymore and losing his friend. He continues to eat and eat, trying to stay overweight for her sake.

As he tells these stories, he decides to find Dale again. He discovers that Sarah’s father is abusive, and her facial scarring wasnot an accident. Once this information comes out, Sarah begins talking to Eric—she has been pretending to be catatonic. Her father’s abuse is getting worse, and the hospital is the only place she feels safe. Her father is starting to suspect something is up, and it will not be long before she is sent home again.

Eric doesnot know what to do, and he ends up telling everything to his swim coach and mentor, Ms. Lemry. She thinks for a bit, and then comes up with a plan to hide Sarah in the attic above herapartment. Sarah is forced to run from the hospital to keep her father from taking her home, and Ms. Lemry takes her in. They decide that Sarah’s mother might be able to help her, but when they find her, she refuses.

While they are gone, Sarah’s father attacks Moby to try to find out where Sarah is. He cuts Moby on the face and stabs him in the back. He runs to Dale who, along with his father, gets him medical help. Moby’s mother’s boyfriend figures out where Sarah’s father is hiding, and the police finally have a reason to arrest him. He is sentenced to twenty years in prison.

Ms. Lemry and her husband adopt Sarah, giving her a second chance at having the family she couldnot have with her parents.

One of the major themes of the novel is friendship. Sarah and Moby develop a bond through their mutual trauma at school and rely on each other even as things begin to improve for Moby. Many times when things improve for one person, the other is left behind. Instead, Moby goes to great lengths to retain his outcast status to support his friend.

Another major theme is what it is like to be an outcast and to carry a secret. Moby earns his nickname by being overweight. Sarah has terrible burn scars from what she says was an accident in her childhood, but it turns out she is holding on to the secret that her dad was the cause. She only reveals this to Moby after Dale tells him. These secrets take a toll on Sarah’s life causing her to refrain from seeking help, to consider suicide, and finally to hatch a plan to fake a mental illness.

Once she owns up to what is happening, the course of her life begins to change. Moby tells his mentor and coach. She can give Sarah refuge until they find her mom. When her mom cannot help, the coach adopts Sarah once her father is in prison.

Body image is another issue in the novel that each character must come to terms with. Both Moby and Sarah frequently reduce themselves to their body image, believing it makes them less worthy of affection or respect. As the novel progresses, they both learn that they are more than what their bodies look like. Their negative feelings about their body image fade throughout the events of the book.

The novel is dark at times, but it is a good look into how true friendship can help a person through a serious challenge. Moby and Sarah find each other, and because of that, they can find a way to handle their problems and begin the kind of life they want to be living.