One morning, the heroine of this book, a famous author named Amélie Nothomb, receives a letter from a fan, Melvin Mapple, an American soldier stationed in Iraq. Horrified by the endless violence around him, he takes comfort in eating. He eats and eats until his ever-growing bulk starts to suffocate him and he can barely fit into his oversized clothes.
Disgusted with himself, but unable to control his eating, he labels his excess self Scheherazade as a type of coping mechanism. Repulsed but also fascinated by Mapple's story, Nothomb begins to exchange letters with him. She opens up to Melvin about the challenges of being in the public spotlight and about her artistic processes. An epistolary friendship of sorts develops, one that delves into universal questions about human relationships.