Yara Zgheib’s poetic and poignant debut novel is a haunting portrait of a young woman’s struggle with anorexia on an intimate journey to reclaim her life.
The chocolate went first, then the cheese, the fries, the ice cream. The bread was more difficult, but if she could just lose a little more weight, perhaps she would make the soloists’ list. Perhaps if she were lighter, danced better, tried harder, she would be good enough. Perhaps if she just ran for one more mile, lost just one more pound.
Anna Roux was a professional dancer who followed the man of her dreams from Paris to Missouri. There, alone with her biggest fears – imperfection, failure, loneliness – she spirals down anorexia and depression till she weighs a mere eighty-eight pounds. Forced to seek treatment, she is admitted as a patient at 17 Swann Street, a peach pink house where pale, fragile women with life-threatening eating disorders live. Women like Emm, the veteran; quiet Valerie; Julia, always hungry. Together, they must fight their diseases and face six meals a day.
Every bite causes anxiety. Every flavor induces guilt. And every step Anna takes toward recovery will require strength, endurance, and the support of the girls at 17 Swann Street.
About the author
Yara Zgheib is a Fulbright scholar with a Masters degree in Security Studies from Georgetown University and a PhD in International Affairs in Diplomacy from Centre D’études Diplomatiques et Stratégiques in Paris. She is fluent in English, Arabic, French, and Spanish. Yara is a writer for several US and European magazines, including The Huffington Post, The Four Seasons Magazine, A Woman’s Paris, The Idea List, and Holiday Magazine. She writes on culture, art, travel, and philosophy on her blog, “Aristotle at Afternoon Tea” (http://www.aristotleatafternoontea.com/).
Anna has had several changes in her life. She was injured and could not dance. As a matter of fact, she lost her place in the dance company. Then her husband received a job offer in St. Louis which he could not turn down. So, they moved from her beloved home in Paris and away from her family. Anna goes into a deep depression. She basically quits eating almost all of the foods she loves. She ends up weighing 88 pounds.
Anna is admitted to 17 Swann Street, a home for women with eating disorders. This is extremely difficult for Anna to adjust. The rules and the treatment are a little more than she can tolerate. But with the support of her husband and all the girls of 17 Swann Street she SLOWLY starts on the road to recovery.
The way Anna’s relationship with food changes her life is really astounding. I have been around anorexics but I have never really discussed their thoughts. Anna’s anxiety about food is above and beyond. After she spent a little time at 17 Swann Street she is allowed to go out to eat with her husband. Her approach to her dinner that night really opened my eyes to how this disease works.
I know this book is not going to work for everyone. It is traumatic in places and it is hard to read because of the subject matter. Not only is it well written and well researched, it is also an emotional ride. You do not want to miss this.
I received this novel from St. Martin’s Press for a honest review.