Staying Fat For Sarah Byrnes Summary and Study Guide

Chris Crutcher

Staying Fat For Sarah Byrnes

  • 29-page comprehensive study guide
  • Features 19 chapter summaries and 5 sections of expert analysis
  • Written by an English instructor with a Master's degree in English
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Staying Fat For Sarah Byrnes Summary and Study Guide

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides for challenging works of literature. This 29-page guide for “Staying Fat For Sarah Byrnes” by Chris Crutcher includes detailed chapter summaries and analysis covering 19 chapters, as well as several more in-depth sections of expert-written literary analysis. Featured content includes commentary on major characters, 25 important quotes, essay topics, and key themes like Self-Acceptance and Morality and Ethics.

Plot Summary

Narrator Eric Calhoune, also known as Moby at his high school, is trying to figure out what’s wrong with his old partner in crime, Sarah Byrnes, who is suddenly catatonic and hospitalized. As to what has set her off, Eric isn’t sure, but he suspects that her silence may be prompted by what he feels qualifies as hisown callous betrayal of her. Throughout the space of the novel, Eric searches for the best way to help his old friend. What he doesn’t know is that she is in much graver trouble than he could ever imagine.

In middle school, Eric and Sarah were both self-professed “terminal uglies”: Eric for being overweight (and thus given the Moby Dick nickname) and Sarah for being badly scarred by childhood burns on her hands and face. Their outcast status bonded them intensely. Together,they authored an underground newspaper called Crispy Pork Rinds, the moniker beinga sarcastic tribute to Sarah’s skin condition and Eric’s weight concerns. Crispy Pork Rinds publishedoutlandish gossip pieces about school staff and students, focusing most particularly on bullies and those that mocked them. The duo’s underhanded revenge through writing gave them an outlet to deal with their anxiety and shame over their physical appearance. While Eric never became as steely and tough as Sarah, their friendship and collaboration allowed him to begin to laugh at his own insecurities and spot the hypocrisy in others. A frequent target is the school vice principal, who begins to severely dislike the pair of them because of their antics.

But when Eric joins the swimming team in high school, their relationship changes. Constant swim practice and meets keep Eric from spending time with Sarah. He now has a new best friend, Steve Ellerby, who also competes on the swim team. Like Sarah Byrnes, Ellerby is a consummate rebel rouser, directing most of his time and attention to riling holier-than-thou art classmate Mark Brittian. Worst of all (in Eric’s mind), he begins losing weight, a lot of it, and feels that he no longer shares outsider status with Sarah. When Sarah enters the psych ward and stops talking, Eric feels responsible. He is shocked to learn from a former classmate, Dale Thornton, that life is worse for Sarah than he could imagine—that her father inflicted those burn wounds on her and continues to abuse her.

Sarah is angry when Eric confronts her about this since she told only Dale Thornton and only in strictest confidence. Eric manages to smuggle Sarah out of the hospital where she is pretending to be catatonic in order to be protected from her father. With the help of Eric’s swimming coach, Ms. Lemry, Sarah goes to Nevada to look for her mother, with whom she hopes to be blissfully reunited. When this doesn’t happen, Ms. Lemry decides to adopt Sarah but not before Eric has to square off with Sarah’s violent father. In the midst of all these dramatic proceedings, Eric participates in a Current American Thought class that challenges him to make decisions about his own personal ethical beliefs and strikes up a romance with an unlikely individual, Jody Mueller, girlfriend of evangelical peer Mark Brittian.


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Chapters 1-3