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Hearts On Fire Reviews

We read and review for the love and joy of books.

Claire Davis and Al Stewart – Eight Inches to Make Johnny Smile

Eight Inches to make Johnny Smile - Al Stewart, Claire  Davis

Reviewer: Lucy

Genre: MM Contemporary


Review: In this short story we meet Mat, a sweet man is very overweight and who’s parents don’t let him forget it. Maybe they don’t realize their insults, but Mat knows and those arrows strike their mark every time. “Me and Dad thought you’d likely never find a job, the size you got to.” Ugh. He’s taunted and tormented for his size for his whole life, by family, neighbors, classmates and at his new job in IT. Simon is the biggest total bully there.


But Mat has moved into his own place and one thing he’s doing for himself is starting Weight Fighters, a support/diet group. It takes a lot of courage for him to go in and then he nearly flees when the weigh-in leader is a “thin man with pretty eyes and a kind face that lit up when he saw Mat”. No matter, the women of the group stampede Mat in the best way and he is there to stay.


Johnny, the leader, is kind, supportive and just the one you’d want to cheer you on to a better you. He’s been heavy, he knows what it’s like. He wears baggy sweaters (a leftover from heavy days?) and a smile. He’s safe to talk to and maybe become a friend.

This story is very short (it was 59 pages on my iPad) and it is missing absolutely nothing. I did think Simon was an idiot – didn’t know it upset Mat? Are you stupid? You call him “lard arse” and worse! Fat shaming, the “tolerated” form of bigotry that goes on all over. Even the old woman in the store, telling Mat (who is a stranger to her) to put away the crisps, is reminiscent of people all over.


Mat, he broke my heart. He’s so hopeful, he’s trying so hard. “As he drove off home, even his car engine sounded healthier.” He has to battle his weight but more so, those demons in his head. “…grinning back at Mat like he was a regular person, not a lump of lard.” Oh, Mat, you are a regular person, and a good one.


They hit a few bumps along the way, understandable since Johnny has his own issues. Mat’s response, binging on food, was so real. I wanted to hug him.


My only quibble with this lovely thing is the cover. While the man on the cover is adorable, he’s too thin to be Mat and he’s dressed wrong to be Johnny. Silly, I know!

For anyone who’s had self-esteem issues, been made to feel inferior because of their bodies or had issues that aren’t readily apparent, this is such an amazing story. These two imperfect people making the perfect couple. Holy pete, but I loved it.  Let's just  mention, I read it three times.