It’s always a joy to sit down and talk with Michael Kimball. He’s into his cats, he plays softball (and is quite competitive!), he likes music, and he wears interesting T-shirts that make you want to scoot your chair back so you can get a good look. BIG RAY is Michael’s fourth book and, I think, his most intimate and moving. Whereas his other novels (Us, The Way the Family Got Away, Dear Everybody) all deal with loss of some sort, and are touching and powerful, BIG RAY emotionally dives down to a whole new level. You can’t help but be somewhat changed after reading this book.

Here’s what Michael Kimball has to say about BIG RAY:

As an incoming high-school freshman, I weighed 170 pounds. Sixteen years later, I weighed somewhere slightly north of 315. That’s a gain of 145. So, with much respect to the late great Allan Sherman, I would like to explain how it came to pass that I got fat:

The first book I remember reading all by myself I have here on my desk now. It’s called Tinker and Tanker Out West and it’s weathered and beaten, like the literary equivalent of the Velveteen Rabbit. The “Tinker” in the tale is in fact a rabbit, while “Tanker” is a hippo. (T&T were series characters developed and illustrated by Richard Scarry, perhaps not the best surname for a children’s author).

Nobody’s writing novels about fat people confronting their weight. And that’s a problem.

I started waddling down the heavily reinforced road to Fat Fiction Town when a journalist asked me about the protagonist in my debut novel, The French Revolution: a wildly overweight former pastry chef/current copyshop cashier who’s surly, stubborn, hilarious, slightly evil, and by far my favorite character.