*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|
|File size:||3 MB|
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.
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!
What triggers an eating disorder? In Anna Roux, a French ballerina, it seemed to be a causal comment about losing a few pounds from her dance master, a man she desperately wanted to please and thought she loved until she learned he was married to a lovely, and much thinner, young woman. After Anna injures herself, she cannot work out, but worse, perhaps her career as a dancer is over. She is fortunate to meet the love of her life, a physicist, and together they move to St Louis so that he can accept a job promotion. But he has to work long hours and Anna is lonely--no job, no friends. The one thing she can control in her life is what goes into her body. Soon she is existing on apples and microwave popcorn alone and it becomes painfully obvious that she has a problem. She agrees to be checked into a private clinic for girls with eating disorders. It is her last chance to regain a normal life with the man she loves. At 17 Swann Street, she meets several other young ladies with their own heartbreaking stories to tell. The eating schedule is programmed to help gain back the weight but the worst struggle is psychological. This story was so well written. It's a fascinating inside look at how this and other eating disorders control the mind of the victim. I received an arc of this book from the publisher via NetGalley for my honest review. I can highly recommend it.
This was an amazing book written by an author who bares her soul in this fictionalized account of a young woman with anorexia and her painful recovery. Anna, a Parisian ballerina injures her knee and must come to terms with the fact that she won't dance again. In spite of the love of her husband, Matthias, father and sister she continues to lose weight and reaches a dangerous 88 pounds.. Her husband finally faces the severity of her illness and helps her check in to 17 Swann Street, a group home/care center for women trying to overcome eating disorders. Not all are as lucky as Anna, who has the support of a loving father and a husband who visits her daily. And Anna is not willing to face her problems at first, nor deal with the tragedies of her youth. It is with the help of the girls at 17 Swann Street that Anna is able to admit her problems and work to become a healthy, functioning adult. We realize she will never be completely free of the disease, but Anna is finally willing to work to be healthy.
Anna has struggled with anorexia for years and moves in to a live in treatment facility for women battling eating disorders. The book is described as having a lyrical quality to it and I admit I was a bit leery at first because that isn't something I typically like. However, because the subject matter is so heavy it actually worked in the book's favor as it made the tough parts slightly easier to take because they were broken up a bit. I thought this was a pretty realistic portrayal of a woman with an eating disorder. For people that have never dealt with one before, I think you can walk away after reading the book at least having a better understanding of the mindset of someone struggling with anorexia. The only part of the book I had problems with was the ending as it felt like the author was in a bit of a rush to wrap up the story. Overall, this is a tough but good read with an emotional punch. I won a free copy of this book in a giveaway but was under no obligation to post a review. All views expressed are my honest opinion!
I’ve read quite a few books about main character’s who have eating disorders. I find them very interesting and like to see the differences in portrayals. This one was extremely raw. At points I was very disturbed, but in the most eye opening way I ever have been in reading about this topic. I felt like Anna was my actual friend and I was with her along her journey to beat her disease. Anna’s denial and fall backs made her such a real character to me. The other girls at 17 Swann Street were portrayed so differently, which went to show how each person is unique and has their own experiences. Overall I thought this book was written in the most poetic, beautiful way. It was so easy to get drawn into Anna and her struggles. I was so fully immersed in this one it was hard to put down.
“How little of an eating disorder the naked eye can actually see.” Bravo to Zgheib’s courage in writing this difficult but necessary book, which you need to read. The self image issues that all young women (and men) face are front and center at Swann Street, and this will make you think about everything you’ve ever said to yourself or another regarding their bodies and self worth. This is a hard one, especially for anyone who has or knows someone who has an eating disorder, however, it is a humane and personal glimpse into an utterly insane disease. Looking at the life of Anna, both before, leading into and at treatment, is an eye opener and a heart breaker. I was in physical and emotional pain while reading this, yet couldn’t put it down. The depth in which Zgheib digs into describing and explaining this disease is commendable, as not everyone understands just what goes on within the minds of those suffering. “Keep walking... no feeling is ever final...there are always signs for those who know to look for them...keep walking.” Thank you for your wise words and for Anna and the Girls at 17 Swann Street’s stories. *I received an arc from the publisher through NetGalley for an honest review
First of all I would like to thank Netgalley as well as the publisher St. Martin's Press for the chance to read the ARC in exchange for an honest review. Anna Roux a 26 year old dancer has been dealing with the eating disorder anorexia for years but after years of struggling things have finally come to a head.. Her husband Mathias convinces her to go to treatment facility at 17 Swann Street. There she meets a group of girls suffering from anorexia or bulimia. Ash she becomes friends with the girls there she also begins to discover herself. When she first arrives and through much of the book Anna is at a loss as to why she is even at Swann Street. Sure, she watches her diet but she is a dancer and dancers need to diet to stay in shape don't they? Yes, she restricts most foods but as a vegan once again that is something that vegans do.....right? The answer is no, to both things. When she first arrives Anna is in complete denial. She remember things differently than her family does. A trip with her husband is remembered fondly as a trip with lovely hikes and boat loads of fresh strawberries but Mathia remembers it as desperately trying to find food, any food that Anna would et and that she could barely make it a half a mile before she was exhausted. Yara Zgheib does a wonderful job of letting us hear Anna' voice while sharing Anna's medical reports throughout her stay where we have a better idea of what is really happening with her. Anna is a kind, sweet voice and you care deeply about her as you root for her to beat her eating disorder. You long for her to heal and you also find yourself rooting for the other girls at Swann Street, the Emms, Valeries and Julias. The girl lost on the grips of this disease that has a tight rein on them. The care and understanding they give one another is heartwarming and you want them all to heal. This is a beautifully written, haunting novel full of wonderful characters and a inspiring, gripping story. As someone with food issues I do get triggered when people discuss weight and dieting and yet I am able to read these kinds of books without being triggered. Maybe because often books like these are written by or about survivors. I do want to give trigger warning at the start if you are in recovery for an eating disorder and are sensitive to these kinds of stories. I myself did not find this triggering at all though.
Heartbreaking, Gut-Wrenching, real… these are the words and phrases that come to mind after reading this novel. Once I started reading it, I couldn’t put it down, even though I read ninety-five percent of it with tears in my eyes. The author’s dive into Anna’s mind and struggle present a gut-wrenching look at the life of someone with an eating disorder, specifically someone who is so close to the point of no return. The portrayals were so realistic, it’s scary, and I can’t see how it could get worse for someone, but am just as sure it can. You find yourself rooting for Anna and the other girls, sharing their heartbreak, and praying that they will be stronger than the disease that has taken over their body and mind and hopeful that they can triumph, though the struggle will probably never end, even if treatment does. This was a beautiful and stunning debut novel and I am excited to see how Zgheib follows it up. #TheGirlsat17SwannStreet #YaraZgheib #TheGirlfriend #StMartinsPress
Wow! Yara Zgheib's debut novel The Girls at 17 Swann Street merely is heart-wrenching. I was fortunate enough to receive an advance copy via the publisher and NetGalley & I'm honored to have been selected to review this book. This book dives into the world of Ana and her eating disorder, the storyline, and characters are strong and effective in hitting you in the right in your feels. The Girls at 17 Swann Street is one of the books that grabs you, and you will want to finish it once you start. Zgheib's does a fantastic job of going through the motions and emotions of someone suffering from an eating disorder as well as how it affects those around them (family/friends). I look forward to future writings by Ms. Zgheib, The Girls at 17 Swann Street sheds light on a topic most try to hide. A must read with tissues
A heartbreaking look into the world of anorexia nervosa, with a side of bulimia [sorry, couldn't help myself]. The background. Anna is French, 26, happily married to Mattias [theirs is a love story]; they have left France for his job and live in St. Louis. Formerly a ballet dancer, she now works checkout in a supermarket and weighs 88 lbs. After trying to ignore her decline, Mattias brings her to 17 Swann Street, a residential treatment center for anorexia. 17 Swann Street is a group home with a strict regimen/schedule--for eating [six meals a day, certain caloric intake], weighing in, BMI measurements, sessions with a psychiatrist, walks [when allowed] and so on. And, interaction with other patients, mostly also with anorexia. Anna's battles with eating, depression, self-image and fear of failure--to name a few, are repeatedly detailed. In fact, this would be my criticism--BUT, it is a vital part of the story. I understand after reading this book, how the battle must be waged daily and bit by bit. It provided what I believe to be an accurate window to a world unfamiliar to me. A few phrases resonated with me: "The ring was glistening rainbows." "...therapist with a loud smile..." "...coats that covered their joyous fidgeting." I'm uncertain how to rate this because I think the book was well done. BUT, the subject matter made it difficult to read. And the repetition [previous note--understandable]--though necessary--detracted/distracted. Still, I learned much about this disease.
AWARENESS!.ENLIGHTENING! So much more than I was expecting it grabs hold of you really shaking the reader up instilling the chaos and crippling reality of anorexia and bulimia of the individual them selves and the people in their lives! You feel the hopeless and helplessness being driven into you through the incredible writing that at times is extremely hard to swallow! Eye opening, raw, emotionally charged and painful, intense, edgy, brutally callous filled twists that make it hard to put down and at times painful to read!
This book is an inside look at the life of an anorexic and it was truly eye-opening. I knew that anorexia is a disease but never did I realize how it can completely take over every waking second of a person's life.. Through the eyes of Anna, the reader witnesses her struggles with food even though she knows that she is killing herself and could possibly lose her husband. She literally has little to no control over the disease that is ravaging her body. I loved this book from beginning to end and found myself routing for all of the characters, especially Anna. I found myself loving Anna's husband, Matthias and wondered what would happen to Anna if it weren't for him. A knight in shining armor, he is! When the book ended, I wanted to keep on reading. The struggle doesn't end at the end of the book. Thank you to Netgalley for an ARC in return for my honest review.
Our striving to be thin has become an obsession. We indulge in costly diet plans, spend hours exercising, cut our food intake, all because the image of success and beauty is a thin body. If you are a dancer, a figure skater, a gymnast, or any other athlete, weight is the foremost idea in you mind. Don't gain an ounce, don't get any taller, don't grow and most of all don't eat. In this book, The Girls At Swann Street, we are taken into the life of a young woman, Anna Roux, as she and others battle the disease known as anorexia. They live together at 17 Swan Street where everything is monitored all in the hopes that they will somehow rediscover the world of eating. Anna is married and is loved by her husband, but he is at his wits ends as he watches the woman he loves disappear before his eyes. Anna had been a dancer studying ballet in Paris. She was totally focused on dance and of course staying thin is ever so critical if one wants to dance. Perhaps if she weighed less she could jump higher, spin faster, be someone special, something meaningful, something she doesn't hate when she looks in the mirror. She and her husband move to America, and Anna's life and her own self begin that spin into decline and possible death. Anna, eats less and less and her weight in a 5'4" body drops to a precarious 88 pounds. She is dying from the inside out. She is admitted to Swan Street in the hopes that this program will save her. Her husband is her ally, but that doesn't seem to be enough. She discovers the girls who with her, are suffering from the same inability to place food into their mouth. They have lost the joy of eating, and have lost the joy of living. Will this program save Anna and the other girls, or will they succumb to the ravages of anorexia? This compelling story comes at the reader like a train rambling along a track that is filled with anguish and sadness. This is a story that many know, that many find themselves in, that many will die from. I heartily recommend this book to all and feel that you will be enhanced and informed by Anna's story. As an aside, my oldest daughter was a competitive ice skater for eight years. I know, first hand how coaches would frown if weight was gained. They would be upset if a growth spurt set in for that would throw off a child's balance. They would try to control the life of a child to further their own ambitions to maybe someday be the coach of a winner. My daughter's ballet teacher would scream at parents waiting for their children that the parents were too fat. At that time, I weighed 110 pounds. I couldn't even, though I was an adult, get that thought out of my mind. Was I indeed too fat? It's insidious. It comes upon you, wrecks your mind as you constantly think and live weight. Is it all worth it? I watched and interacted with the children, the ballerinas at Lincoln Center. What they ate and placed on their lunch trays was pitiful, all in that attempt to be thin. Watch the TV, look at magazines, listen to jokes, we worship thinness. We look to normal people as if they are obese, and we fat shame those who have weight issues. This is who we are so is Anna and the other girls's stories so hard to understand? Thank you to Yara Zgheib, St Martin's Press, and NetGalley for an advanced copy of this moving story.
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. First, let me say that I did not expect to love this book. I was interested and curious about the story and wanted to see where it would go, but, let me repeat, I did NOT expect to love this book. This book was so well written. I am a licensed medical professional (professional reader in my spare time) and I know how difficult it is to write medical notes. The author did a FANTASTIC job of writing medical notes throughout this book. Also, being a medical professional, I did not realize how little I actually knew about anorexia nervosa. The physiologic component and the mental component were so well explained that I felt the emotions of Anna, the main character. I was truly rooting for her the entire time and when she would "fail" i felt like I was failing because I connected so well to her. I read this book very quickly and at no point did I feel like i just needed to get through it or that I had committed to reading it so finish it I must. The first few pages drew me in and set a tone for the book and those were all it took to hook me in. I am SO GRATEFUL to NetGalley and St. Martins press for giving me advance readers copy in exchange for my honest opinion.
Special thank you to St. Martin’s Press for gifting me with this ARC in exchange for my honest review. I was sent this novel as a result of winning a Goodreads giveaway. --------- Anorexia is the same girl with the same story, told over and over again. It does not matter what she is called; her name designates nothing. My name is Anna but anorexia got rid of it, my feelings, body, husband, life. I was ambitious once. I was a dancer, a dreamer. I was loved, I was in love, I loved life, I once had books to read and places to see, babies I wanted to make. I want to want those again, Because I think I want to live. --------- Anna Roux is a 26-year-old former professional ballet dancer, originally from Paris, France. Anna and her beautifully supportive husband Matthias have moved to the States for Matthias’s job. After suffering a devastating leg injury, and with a natural proclivity to depression and unhealthy body image already, Anna launches into a downward spiral landing her at 17 Swann Street -- an unusual peach pink house, and also a treatment facility for women with eating disorders. Throughout the novel, Anna and the other patients face setbacks and struggles, but cling tight to the ever-present search for recovery. They build remarkable friendships and relationships throughout this moving and powerful story, but probably none quite as beautiful as the relationship between Anna and Matthias. This evocative, realistic portrayal of the lives of those suffering mental illnesses is haunting and heartbreaking, but with a glimmer of hope all throughout. This novel is a very fast read, and I highly recommend to anyone who is interested in realistic fiction.
Sad But Uplifting! This is not a book I would normally pick up. I don't have an eatting disorder and, to my knowledge, know of no one who does. That being said, I feel that I am now more educated about people with these type of disorders and the hell that they must go through. The author does a great job of letting us into their struggles, successes and failures. I felt an emotional attachment to each of the characters and was so upset when some of their plans didn't work out. While this was a very depressing read, it did have uplifting moments and I came to really love each of the girls in this book. Don't pass on this book because of the subject matter. It is a page turner and does a great job of letting us into an unfamiliar world.