*A BookMovement Group Read*
**A People Pick for Best New Books**
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.
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Press|
|Product dimensions:||6.30(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.50(d)|
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 is the author of The Girls at 17 Swann Street and writes on culture, art, travel, and philosophy on her blog, "Aristotle at Afternoon Tea."
Read an Excerpt
I call it the Van Gogh room. Just a different color scheme. Hazy peach blanket, hazy peach walls. Pastel-green carpet on a cherrywood floor. White blinds and shutters, the window and closet creak. Everything is pale and faded, a little like me.
I look around and think, This is where it starts. In Bedroom 5, on the east side of a pink house on 17 Swann Street. As good, as bad a setting as any, I suppose, for a story like this. Plain and mildly inviting, dubiously clean. At least there is a window; I can see the driveway, the edge of the street, bits of garden and sky.
Four hangers, four towels, four shelves. I have not packed much, I do not need more. I have, however, packed my makeup kit, a red one my mother used to own. Not that I need it; I will not be going anywhere for a long time. No work shift to check into on Monday morning, no plans for the weekend. But I will look nice, I have to. I set the kit on the white shelf and dab blush on my cheeks.
Deodorant, coconut lotion. My apple and jasmine perfume. A spritz behind each ear, two more. I will not smell like a hospital bed.
Four magnets on a whiteboard. Oh, I will need much more. For the time being, I spread my thick stack of photographs in a rainbow on the floor. I contemplate all the faces I have loved in my life and put up my favorite four.
My mother and father. Maman et Papa, on the faded day they eloped. She in her borrowed white dress and white shoes, he in his father's suit.
A picture of Sophie, Camil, and me on a picnic by a stream. It must have been autumn; the sky above us was cloudy. Camil must have been five or six; Leopold in his lap was still a puppy.
Matthias, gorgeous Matthias squinting at the sun and my lens. The first picture I took of him, that first morning in Paris. A quietly happy day.
Last, Matthias and me, mouths covered in chocolate, hands holding messy half-eaten crêpes. Our official wedding photo, posed for proudly outside the Métro three years ago.
The kaleidoscope goes by the bed, the slippers and a box underneath. Blinds up, night-light on.
I have moved into Bedroom 5, 17 Swann Street.
* * *
My name is Anna. I am a dancer, a constant daydreamer. I like sparkling wine in the late afternoon, ripe and juicy strawberries in June. Quiet mornings make me happy, dusk makes me blue. Like Whistler, I like gray and foggy cities. I see purple in gray and foggy days. I believe in the rich taste of real vanilla ice cream, melting stickily from a cone. I believe in love. I am madly in love, I am madly loved.
I have books to read, places to see, babies to make, birthday cakes to taste. I even have unused birthday wishes to spare.
So what am I doing here?
I am twenty-six years old. My body feels sixty-two. So does my brain. Both are tired, irritable, in pain. My hair was once wild-lion thick, morning blond. It is now a nondescript, mousy beige that falls in wisps around my face and out in my hands. My eyes, green like my mother's, are sunk so deep in their sockets that no makeup will fill the craters. I do have lovely eyelashes. I always liked those. They curl up at the edges like those of a doll I used to own.
My collarbones, ribs, kneecaps, and streamer-like thin blue veins peek through paper-thin skin. My skin, largest organ of my body and its first line of defense, has been more decorative than functional lately. In fact, not even that; it is cracked and taut, constantly bruised and cold. Today it smells of baby oil. For the occasion, I used lavender.
I have a flat stomach. I once had lips and breasts, but those shrank months ago. Along with my thighs, my liver, my behind. I lost my sense of humor, too.
I do not laugh very often anymore. Very little is funny. When I do, it sounds different. So does my voice on the telephone. Apparently. Not that I can tell the difference: I do not have many people to call.
I realize that my phone is not with me, then remember; they took it away. I am allowed to have it until ten A.M. and after dinner in the evenings. One of the many house rules I will have to learn while I am living here, however long that will be. How long will that be? I turn away from the thought ... ... and hit a tidal wave of panic. I do not recognize the girl, or the reality I just described.CHAPTER 2
Clinical Intake and Assessment Form
Monday — May 23, 2016
Patient Identification Information
Name: Anna M. Roux, maiden name Aubry
Date of birth: November 13, 1989
Place of birth: Paris, France
Emergency Contact Information
Name: Matthias Roux
I tell people I am a dancer. I have not danced in years, though. I work as a cashier in a supermarket, but my real occupation is anorexia.
Marital Status: Married.
Yet. Hopefully, maybe, after this is all over?
I skip Ethnic Background, Family and Social History, Education, and Hobbies.
I feel fine, thank you.
Last menstrual cycle: Unknown.
I cannot remember.
Birth control? Contraceptive medication?
What for? And what for?
Weight and height: None of your business.
Patient's weight: 88 lb.
Patient's height: 5' 4?
So I am a little underweight. So what?
No. I do not like the smell.
Alcohol: A glass of wine, once a week on a Friday night.
Caffeine: How else do you think I function on only three hours of sleep?
Number of meals eaten on a normal weekday:
Define the words "normal" and "meal." I keep a few apples in my bag in case I get too hungry.
Number of meals eaten on a normal weekend day:
Why would that be different? Well, I do sometimes make popcorn in the microwave. Single serving. Nonfat.
Regular exercise routine: Yes. Naturally.
Frequency: Every day.
I run, build strength, and stretch for two hours, every morning before seven A.M.
What do you do to manage stress?
I run, build strength, and stretch for two hours every morning before seven A.M.
Basic problem or concern: Difficulty eating certain foods. Difficulty eating, period. Loss of interest in food, loss of interest in general.
Significant changes or stressors in recent history: None that I have any interest in disclosing here.
Previous mental health diagnoses: None. I said I feel fine.
Feelings of sadness?
Please check any symptoms experienced in the past month:
Restricted food intake.
Compulsion to exercise.
Avoidance of certain foods.
A whole box of blackberries last week.
Only with guilt. See above on blackberries.
Concerns about weight, body image, feeling fat.
Check. Check. Check.
Total weight lost over the past year: Pass.
Lowest weight ever reached: Pass again.
These questions are inappropriate.
Anorexia nervosa. Restricting type.CHAPTER 3
The bedroom, the whole flat in fact, was an industrial cube. The sort of unit prized by cost-cutting developers and lower-income tenants. High ceiling and concrete walls left provocatively naked, lined with steel pipes. More loft than apartment unit, more studio really.
Light flowed in buckets through the one window that covered the only external wall. She walked up to it and looked down onto a little patch of green, across onto the next building, up onto the third floor and window parallel to theirs. The blinds were drawn. Did neighbours know their neighbours here? There was no "u" in the word "neighbors" here. She would have to remember that.
"Flat" was not the right word either, she reminded herself. Flats here were called apartments. She was in America now.
Apartment. America. She tried both words on for size, feeling them on her tongue as she rolled them around in her mouth. This apartment was bare but it was theirs, small but luxurious by Parisian standards.
In Paris they had been living in a cupboard of a room, sharing a wall, bathroom, little stove and fridge with a philosophy major, a psychologist, their lovers, and a computer technician who was never there but made outstanding pesto when he was. Bohemian life did not scare her; she had always loved and led it happily. But this was not bohemian, or Paris. This was the American Midwest.
She had landed last night. Matthias had been waiting at the airport with a red rose. He had driven her here. Dinner, wine, sex, and this morning he had left for work ...
... and had not said when he would return, Anna realized. She finished unpacking — apple and jasmine perfume, lotion, hairbrush, toothbrush next to his. Books by the bed. She had forgotten her slippers. Done. Eleven o'clock.
One more look around. The walls were not too bare. She would cover them with photographs of home. She would also buy groceries, candles, and some more wine. Would Matthias be home for lunch?
Surely not. But she would make sure dinner was ready when he did. They would have a feast, then go out to explore this new city. Till then ...
She hummed notes at random and walked toward the fridge. A quarter of the pizza Matthias had ordered the night before remained. He had left the crusts on the side; he knew Anna liked them. There was also a piece of cheese, some yogurt, a few fruits. She took the yogurt and some strawberries.
Where would she eat them, though? They had no furniture yet beyond the coffee table and the bed. Coffee table then. She would just sit on the floor.
She boiled water and stirred in instant coffee. One sip. Disaster. Enough. That was not coffee. She poured it into the sink and decided she would have tea.
They did not have tea. Eleven oh five. The yogurt was the fruity kind, with syrup. She put it back in the fridge and ate the strawberries. Eleven oh six. It would soon be time for lunch anyway. She reached for the phone, then put it down; it was late afternoon in Paris and everyone was surely busy now.
Perhaps she would go for a run before lunch. Matthias just might be back then.
He was not. She showered and slowly went through her lotion routine, dried her hair, put on a blue dress, reached for a red makeup kit: face cream, mascara, peach blush. Pink lipstick applied. Twelve twenty-eight.
Fridge. Pizza, crust, cheese, yogurt, and fruit. She should buy groceries for the evening. She could make crêpes and a salad. Cheese and mushrooms. They would have the fruit for dessert.
Twelve twenty-nine. She would go before lunch.
One thirty in the afternoon and she finally had everything she needed. The store she had spotted on her run had not been as close as she had thought. Her voice had croaked mildly at the cash register; she was using it for the first time that day. A while later, the eggs, milk, flour, ricotta, and lettuce, mushrooms, tomatoes were in the fridge. Done.
Concrete walls. She took the phone and put it down. Opened and closed the fridge. She took two of Matthias's leftover crusts, ripped them into little bits, and slowly chewed the first, looking out the large window, exhaling the anxiety away.
Nine full minutes later it was done. She hated eating alone. At 1:41 she took the blue dress off and hung it neatly with the rest of her clothes. All she owned had moved from one suitcase to twenty hangers and a shelf in cube 315 of many more in the building on 45 Furstenberg Street. She climbed back into bed.
Matthias would be back soon anyway and then she would make the crêpes.CHAPTER 4
I do not suffer from anorexia, I have anorexia. The two states are not the same. I know my anorexia, I understand it better than the world around me.
The world around me is obese, half of it. The other half is emaciated. Values are hollow, but meals are dense with high fructose corn syrup. Standards come in doubles, so do portions. The world is overcrowded but lonely. My anorexia keeps me company, comforts me. I can control it, so I choose it.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Fifth Edition) defines anorexia nervosa as a brain disease, a mental disorder with severe metabolic effects on the entire body. Characteristics:
1. Restriction of food, self-induced starvation with the purpose of losing weight.
2. An intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat.
3. A distorted perception of body weight or shape with a strong influence on mental well-being,
as well as
a lack of awareness of the severity of the condition.
I run for eighty minutes each day, build strength for another twenty, keep my caloric intake below eight hundred calories, a thousand when I binge. I weigh myself every morning and cry at the number on the scale. I cry in front of mirrors, too: I see fat everywhere.
Everyone around me thinks I have a problem. Everyone around me is scared. I do not have a problem. I just have to lose a little bit of weight. I am scared, too, but not of gaining weight. I am terrified of life. Of a sad and unfair world. I do not suffer from a sick brain. I suffer from a sick heart.
Cardiac arrhythmia. Irregular heartbeat. Like falling in love, or a heart attack.
Cardiomyopathy. Loss of heart muscle mass. Yes, but only the excess.
I do not need dispensable tissue, dispensable fat or organs. But my body is greedy; it wants more potassium, sodium, magnesium. Energy.
My body does not know what it needs. I make that decision for it. In protest, my heart pumps less blood. Bradycardia. Slow heartbeat. My blood pressure drops.
The rest of my body follows suit, falling quietly, like rain, like snow. My ovaries, my liver, my kidneys go next. Then my brain goes to sleep.CHAPTER 5
Anna? Should I pause the movie? You are missing the good parts.
Anna, are you all right in there? Open the door please.
Anna, open the door! Anna!CHAPTER 6
Matthias found me on the floor, legs like cotton, mouth numb. I could feel the bathroom tiles, freezing, painful against my back, but I was also falling through them. I could not grasp the wisps of words I needed to tell him that I was fine. I could not grasp his shirt; my hands were clumsy. My thoughts were clumsy, too.
I could not move my hands, I could not move. Matthias carried me from the bathroom into the bedroom.
For a few minutes neither of us said anything. The movie was on pause too. I wanted to press Play, end the ugly intermission. Matthias had other plans.
We need to talk, Anna.
What happened in there?
I fell in the bathroom, Matthias, I sliced.
I am fine now. I just stood up too fast.
Muscles tense, defenses up, circling the ring. He could feel the edge in my voice. He circled, too, carefully.
What about yesterday, during your shift? And last week, when you hurt your shoulder?
I was tired! I slipped!
We need to talk, Anna.
We are talking!
We need to stop lying then.
Matthias was a few years older than I was, thirty-one in a couple of months. He looked older just then. Our voices had been rising, but he said that last sentence very quietly.
Another lull while he chose his words. I did not, would not, help him.
I think you need treatment. I've been a coward. I should have spoken a long time ago. I just kept convincing myself you were fine —
I told you: I am fine!
My claws were out, a cat trapped in a corner.
I know things have been difficult since Christmas, but I have this under control! I've been eating normally —
You've lost so much weight —
How would you know, Matthias? You're never here!
I had gone on the offensive, he had left me no choice. My back was to the wall and I needed air. But the shriller I got, the calmer he did.
You're right. I am not. I'm sorry.
I do not need you to be sorry, or worry about me! I can take care of myself! I told you: I am fine —
And I believed you, because I wanted to.
I cannot anymore, Anna.
I do not remember much of the three years that led up to that moment. Just that they felt long and cold, and I felt underwater in them. The two days that followed, however, flashed by to Matthias and me getting in the car and driving up an empty Highway 44 to an address on Swann Street. It took us just under forty-five minutes. Really, it took us much longer; three years and twenty-two pounds to reach that Intake and Assessment appointment.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Girls at 17 Swann Street: 8 Chapter Sampler"
Copyright © 2019 Yara Zgheib.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Anna was a dancer. She wanted the soloist’s part but wasn’t good enough. She thought that, maybe, if she lost more weight, she could succeed. Eventually, however, she was down to 88 pounds. Anna could no longer eat anything but apples and popcorn. Her fear of food and gaining weight had become so overwhelming! But if she did not stop this behavior, she would die. She found she was endangering her own life. She was checked into the pink house at 17 Swann Street, a house for women with eating disorders. Together, they fight to save their lives. This is a frank and moving account of an anorexic’s fight to eat, again, in order to save her own life. It is well-written and worth reading. I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review.
The Girls of 17 Swann Street takes a closer look and follows 26 year old Anna as she gets checked into an in-patient treatment center to battle her anorexia. Throughout the story, we learn more about Anna as well the other women in the treatment center. I have a really close friend who struggles with anorexia to be point of having to be checked into an outpatient treatment center. Everything she told me about the center lined up with what was told in the book. It really helped me understand and better empathize with her struggles. Eating disorders and mental health are two things that aren’t often talked about in the media. As a society, it’s often easier to turn a blind eye than try to understand what someone is going though. This book did the opposite and that’s what I loved about it. This book didn’t try to make an eating disorder look glamorous. It also did not portray an eating disorder as something that can be treated and never thought of again. Eating disorders are an ongoing struggle and the author respected that. I received a review copy of this ebook from St. Martin's Press and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you for allowing me to review this ebook.
I was not expecting this book to be so fascinating. This book is about a young woman who develops anorexia and shares her journey at her treatment facility on 17 Swann Street. It is written in an incredibly easy to read way and the book went fast as it is under 300 pages. Anna’s thoughts, urges, impulses, Love, are clearly seen on every page and you are battling this illness with her. The book dives into Anna’s story and develops her character and family very well but it also discusses the other characters living with her and their story. As a doctor, I was impressed at the accuracy of the description of the symptoms and the medical problems that occurred with these women. I had to go look up if this story was a true story because it seemed so accurate. Although it’s hard to read about people who are sick, this book is a work of art taking you on this journey of eating disorders and as the book says, “There is no tragedy to suffering, it is just as happiness is, to be present for both, that is life”
3.5 Stars A powerful book about a young woman with anorexia. Anna develops anorexia after moving to the States with her husband from Paris. When her husband and family finally step in, Anna is admitted to a residential treatment center on Swann Street. There she meets a group of girls suffering from various types of eating disorders and forms bonds with them while struggling to accept and fight her disease. Zgheib does a great job at depicting the reality and horrors of anorexia. You feel the frustration, anger, sadness, and defeat that both Anna and her husband, Matthias, feel. And you rally with them as she gains the strength and determination to fight. I felt the treatment notes seemed more like an info-dump and they interrupted the story some with the clinical way they were written, but at the same time they were informative and interesting. Heartbreaking yet with a glimmer of hope, this book shows the crises of eating disorders and the power and love it takes to survive it. I received an advanced copy through Netgalley in return for an honest review.
**This review is based on an excerpt of the first eight chapters** I have heard many good things about this book from other reviewers. Going on, I knew the basic principle of the story was anorexia. I did not, however, expect it to be so relatable to my own life experiences. I have not been anorexic, but I have been changed by a disorder, and I really did not notice the changes until they became obvious. Anna talks about how she slowly stopped going out, stopped putting makeup on, stopped answering the phone. Yeah, that is me, too. Anna has been slowly slipping away from her life. Once she realizes it, the damage is done. Now, serious treatment is necessary. I feel so bad for Anna. I understand how it happened to her. It just did. She had no control over it. Everything became so difficult, so she just stopped doing things. In her case, this also includes eating. I hope she recovers.
I really appreciated a story from a woman living with anorexia and not a teenager. I think it's important to highlight that anorexia is not just a teen problem. I know that some people disliked the writing style, but I thought it really added to the feeling of the novel and I liked it. If no quotation marks annoy you, then this not the book for you. In most books, the italicized sections are in the mind of the character. In this book the italicized sections represent her talking to others and them to her. The regular print is what's going on in her mind and I loved that. I felt that it helped to understand that what's going on in her mind is the most central part of the story. I found the writing style made this a quick read. I also found that once I picked it up, I didn't want to put it down because I wanted to see what was going to happen next. I found myself rooting for these women to get better. One character in particular is still on my mind. Now for what I didn't like. I was so irritated with the constant use of the term girls for these WOMEN in the facility. What is it with books and the constant use of the word girl??? I also didn't like how dependent she was on her husband emotionally. I feel that this was something that should have been addressed in her therapy sessions, but maybe that's not their job. I also felt that her recovery was unrealistically quick. Overall, I would recommend this book.
A stunning piece of work. Very few authors can write a book with so little plot, yet keep you mesmerized the entire way. Although this is a novel, I quickly began to suspect that Yara was writing from personal experience. No one could possible write this in such detail without living it. A little research proved me to be absolutely correct. While I read this to be entertained (and I certainly was), I find this book to be highly educational. Many of us are touched by someone with this disease, and this is an eye opener. But even if not, this is a book for all to read, including doctors and others in the medical field, (although written in simple language with little medical terminology.) I highly recommend this. Best I've read so far in 2019.
Excellent book! This is a work of fiction and it has a storyline that is different from most other authors. Way to go! I will definitely read everything that she writes in the future!
Thank you Netgalley for the ebook ARC in exchange for a honest review. When I read what this was about I was intrigued. Upon starting the story of Anna and her battle against anorexia I was immediately drawn in. This book was well written and very inciteful and gave me a glimpse into the daily battle theses women faced. I was rooting for Anna the whole time. Once I started reading it was hard to put down.
This was an awesome book. I did not know much about eating disorders before I read this book but the author brought the disorders to life. The author did a great job of making each character become a real person to me. It was like you were right with them each time they ate and you could feel their pain. I couldn't stop reading because I wanted to know how everyone was doing. I received this ebook from NetGalley for an honest review and I'm glad I did because I really enjoyed reading it.
This is a contemporary story about Anna, who has been suffering from anorexia for at least 3 years and at 26yrd weighs about what I used to weigh in middle school. Her husband, Matthais, sends her to 17 Swann Street, a residential rehabilitation center for women with eating disorders. Once there, Anna meets the other women of 17 Swann Street and must face the fact that if she does not change her life, she will die. I think The Girls at 17 Swann Street does a great job of taking us into the mind of a person suffering from anorexia. You feel Anna's stress and anxiety throughout the book as she struggles to eat even the simplest of meals. You also feel the logic behind her behavior as she periodically succeeds and fails at different points of her recovery. I would have liked to learn more about each character and their back-stories, and although the writing style was not particularly my favorite, I think the depth taken to describe Anna's process was excellent! The book left me with many questions to consider regarding the internal struggles of a person with anorexia, the responsibility of those around them, as well as the difficulties of both trying to heal together. I would definitely recommend for fans of Girl, Interrupted and Orange is the New Black (the books!). A special thanks to St. Martin's Press for sending me a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review!
I am in love with this writing style. The author nails it with quick, choppy dialogue and narratives that keep the reader hooked from the first page. Anorexia is something with which most of us can relate in our own ways, and I am no exception to that. As someone who has a very unhealthy relationship with food, I found myself nodding along with book. I can understand these characters' thoughts and feelings about food and weight and body image. I love the breakdown of the marriage and how it's told in alternatinve past and present chapters. I'm not sure how realistic the treatment center is, though. I can't imagine a treatment would basically bully a sick person into eating, and I can't imagine a nutritionist would be such a raging brat to her patients.
I have tackled this novel several times over the last months, and found it tough going. I could not find the protagonists sympathetic - simple as that. It was interesting to see what those with eating disorders have to go through to find help, and add to my knowledge of what the term entails, but finishing The Girls at 17 Swann Street was heavy weather. I received a free electronic copy of this novel from Netgalley, Yara Zgheib, and St. Martin's Press in exchange for an honest review. Thank you all for sharing your hard work with me.
(Thank you to St. Martin's Press and NetGalley for approving my request to read an e-arc in exchange for an honest review.) This wasn't the easiest book for me to pick up. I read the first two (short) chapters a week ago, then set it down. It hit me as emotionally heavy. But, I picked it back up last night, and was surprised at how quickly it gripped me. I read the entirety of this one in 24 hours (despite it being a workday). I couldn't not. It's been awhile since I was this sucked into a book. The Girls at 17 Swann Street centers around an eating-disorder treatment center. Much of it reads like a diary entry, or a confessional, from Anna. A former dancer, a French expat, and a wife, Anna has anorexia. And that's brought her to Swann Street. I cared about her, and the rest of the characters, so deeply - truly, I'd have read another 500 pages about them. The writing itself was great, and I'm left eagerly awaiting Zgheib's next novel. That this is a debut? Outstanding. (And I loved the Author's Note.)
Anna Roux’s life changed drastically when her husband moved them from Paris to the American Midwest. Her profession as a dancer fades to history, and she disappears inside herself, despair manifesting as anorexia. In a holiday visit home, her family’s shocked reaction to her appearance prompts her husband to commit her to a strict program at 17 Swann Street, where Anna learns the hard way to eat again. There’s so much more going on than Anna feeling fat, so much involved in succumbing to an insidious disease. Zgheib carefully maneuvers through the complexity of her character’s inner turmoil. As a contributing factor as well as an integral part of Anna’s support system, her husband is explored through his emotional roller coaster, denial, and finally, tough love response to her illness. This story paints a detailed description of a unique life with an unfortunately common disease, where one cannot point to any one action as a causation. Readers with no connection to this illness still will reel from the pain of a young woman who feels out of control of her own life, who cannot reconcile her less than desirable circumstances with the love she feels for her husband, sympathizing with her as she is forced to confront the voice of anorexia telling her that she is not enough. The slow, challenging journey is well told by a talented writer. This is a must-read for the awareness and understanding it brings. If anorexia has touched your life in any way, offer this story to friends and family. Even if it hasn’t, read and share for the compassion invoked.
With prose as spare as the meals her characters would prefer to be eating, Yana Zgheib delicately sketches the interior world of Anna, a ballerina undergoing inpatient treatment for anorexia. We hear Anna's ongoing battle of will and words with the disease and her treatment team, and watch her develop friendships with the other girls and spend visiting hours with her husband, Matthias. The "girls," you see, are young adult women -- eating disorders not being restricted to teenagers -- and that gives this story far greater impact. This disease is not something a patient will outgrow, although the reader dearly hopes Anna will. The Girls At 17 Swann Street won't make you an expert on anorexia, but as an intro to "Eating Disorders 101," it's a great place to start. Full disclosure: I received an Advance Reader Copy in exchange for an honest review.
Thanks to St. Martin's Press for this ARC. I have to admit that I didn't want to read this book at first because of the subject matter of anorexia. I knew it was going to be sad all the way through and it really was but it really opened my eyes and I really did "enjoy" this book despite the seriousness. It really was hard to get through at times, and I had to stop a few times and dry my tears and compose myself. Anna and the other women at 17 Swann Street all had their own problems but stuck together and were there for each other. Anna and Matthias were a wonderful couple and glad he was there by her side the whole time visiting her. When her father showed up from Paris, that had me crying once again. The epilogue was positive and I hope Anna finally got her life in control.
Many thanks to NetGalley, St Martin’s Press, and Yara Zgheib for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. My opinions are 100% my own and independent of receiving an advance copy. Rating 4.5 stars. The Girls at 17 Swann Street is a heart-wrenching, punch-in-the-gut, story about a young woman with anorexia. Zgheib gives an honest, raw account of the struggles that women with an eating disorder face while trying to battle this disease. This is not the first that I have read on this subject matter, as I studied and wrote about it during my academic years, but this story had a huge impact on me. I found it so effective that Zgheib chose to do it through fiction, crafting a story that looks behind the curtain, at the core of this sickness, destroying the myths that surround it, the highs and lows, and the different manifestations of the disease, the toll it takes on their bodies, their family members, and the different outcomes that may come to pass. This is an up close and personal story of Anna, as she faces her demons, trying to get well. When we meet Anna she is 88 pounds and after passing out and being in the hospital has decided to voluntarily check herself into a home that helps women with eating disorders. There are strict rules that she must follow, with consequences if she doesn’t. For example, she must eat all of the required food, in an allotted amount of time. After three refusals you get the feeding tube (which is horrific - yuch!). Now it might not seem difficult for you or I, to eat a bagel and cream cheese within 30 minutes, but to someone who is sick, the battle of trying to force it down is real. And they have to eat 3 times a day and two snacks. To hear what goes on inside a person’s head was excruciating. At some point, they all break down and can’t do it. What’s interesting is that she would say I am a vegetarian, I don’t eat dairy, just give me a substitute and I didn’t really understand why they didn’t accommodate her. I was with Anna, I thought the nutritionist was a horrible person. If she wanted vegetarian, why force her? But as you go along the journey, you begin to understand that none of it was true and that Anna actually LOVED bagels and cream cheese. It was the disease talking, not Anna. With flashback scenes, we get to hear Anna’s story and how she got to arrive at 17 Swann Street. We meet all kinds of girls at the home, some bulimic, some repeat customers so to speak. One girl had been going to Swann Street for four years. All heartbreaking stories of different manifestations of this disease. Some don’t make it. But the love and support that the girls give to each other was incredible. You begin to understand how they need the routine. Anna knows she is lucky because she has a family and husband who love her, who give her a reason to get better. Anna begins to realize how this has impacted all of them, how she withdrew from life, how incredibly strong you have to be to overcome and what it will take to get better. Will Anna make it? We hope so. Unlike an alcoholic, who can simply remove alcohol from their life, food is constant and you need to eat to live. It is something you have to deal with every day. I loved this story. It reaches inside you and touches your heart. You can’t help but root for these girls. This is one story you won’t want to miss.
The Girls at 17 Swann Street is a beautifully written, captivating story of a young woman battling anorexia who finds herself in residential treatment at Swann Street. Anna, a French ballerina, finds herself in St Louis after her new husband, Matthias, receives a job opportunity. In a new country without a career or family or friends, Anna begins to restrict foods and exercise until one night she passes out after reaching 88 pounds. Her husband checks her into a program at 17 Swann Street, where we meet other woman battling their own demons. The story is told exclusively through Anna’s point of view as she proceeds through treatment, with frequent flashbacks to meeting and falling in love with Matthias, and then her decline with the disease. This is not a story filled with twists and turns and surprises. It IS an authentic, heart wrenching, brutally honest story of battling an eating disorder. Honestly, I have never battled those demons and anorexia has never been a disease that’s been very interesting to me. Despite that, I was enthralled with Anna’s story. I cheered for her. I got frustrated with her. I wanted to shake her. But mostly, I fiercely wanted to see her conquer her demons. It’s an emotional story, and could certainly be triggering for some, but well worth the read.
Anna is a young married woman battling anorexia and is running out of options before her disease literally kills her. She is admitted to 17 Swann Street with the hope that she will be able to learn to live with her disease and enjoy life once again. This book was an emotional ride and the author has done an excellent job showing how difficult and exhausting anorexia is. I was completely consumed by Anna's story and I was rooting for her through the whole book.
Received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This is not my usual type of read but I enjoyed this book for many reasons. The writing is exceptional and truthful. The characters portray actual every day people. Anorexia nervosa is a tragic illness and everyone needs to be aware of the fact that it doesn't just affect the person with the illness. I would recommend this book to all. Enjoy!
The Girls at 17 Swann Street is a an honest, unflinching, but fundamental hopeful portrayal of anorexia and the struggles of recovery. Anna enters treatment at the beginning of the novel primarily at the behest of her husband, who is at the end of his rope and fearful that he wouldn't be able to keep her alive on his own. She is resistant to the idea of treatment at that time, filled up with fear and denial. Zgheib explores the triggering events that led up to Anna's situation, from her demanding background in ballet to her sense of isolation as an immigrant in America. Anna's background felt like one of the biggest strengths of this novel. There is no single factor which led to her developing an eating disorder; the reasons are myriad and the descent was gradual. As is often the case in real life, compounding traumas and pressures slowly built up to a mental health crisis, and it's difficult to say how Anna would have fared if even one of these factors had been different. Zgheib seems to take pains to lend a sense of realism to Anna's recovery efforts throughout the novel. Progress is treated with caution, as relapse is very common with anorexia, but the overall tone does not come across as pessimistic. The reader sees Anna's mindset change slowly but drastically, spurred in part by a desire to reconnect with family members who have grown distant during her decline and in part through fear of ending up like some of the other girls she encounters in treatment. There is nothing remarkably original or unique in the telling of this story; a woman hits rock bottom, enters treatment for anorexia, falters and makes slow progress, and the story ends on a hopeful but still somewhat ambiguous note. If you've read a lot of novels about mental health, the structure will feel very familiar, but Zgheib's writing style is engaging and it feels very easy to connect with Anna. The Girls at 17 Swann Street is a rewarding and poignant read, and I look forward to seeing what this author writes in the future. My thanks to the publisher for providing an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.
An interesting book about a dancers fight with aneorexia and her will to live. To live for her husband, father, sister and more importantly herself. This book was a hard one for me to get through. The story was interesting and highlighted how a disease like this takes a toll not only on the person, but also those that surround them. However, the lack of quotation marks and the jumping from past to present without any indicators made it challenging to follow. I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.
Tough topic, but great read! Thank you to St. Martin's Press and NetGalley for an e-Arc of this novel in exchange for an honest review. I truly enjoyed this book. While the topic was difficult, I feel like it was very well written and I enjoyed the format. It was a quick read and really gave a glimpse of what it is like in the world of an anorexic. Recommend!