G1061 Book Review of The Girls at 17 Swann Street by Yara Zgheib
Author: Yara Zgheib
Publisher: St Martin's Press
Type of book: Anorexia, USA, France, modern times, bulimia, specialized group home, Missouri, friendship, love, family, Spring/summer of 2016
Year it was published: 2019
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.
Yara Zgheib's poetic and poignant debut novel is a haunting, intimate journey of a young woman's struggle to reclaim her life. 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.
Main characters include Anna, her husband Matthias and numerous friends she makes while at 17 Swann Street. Anna Roux is a twenty-six year old former ballet dancer who deeply loves her husband. "My name is Anna. I am a dancer, a constant daydreamer...I believe in love. I am madly in love. I am madly loved. Matthias. 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?" (pages 2-3) she is suffering from anorexia. Matthias is Anna's extremely devoted husband who loves her deeply as well and desires to do whatever he can to help her. There are other women in 17 Swann Street such as Emm who seems to function only at 17 Swann Street and is the leader, then Valerie who makes friends with Anna as well as Chloe and Julie. One of the women suffers from bulimia, while others suffer from anorexia.
Life isn't black and white
Going back and forth between pre-17 Swann Street versus the months that Anna has spent there, THE GIRLS AT 17 SWANN Street by Yara Zgheib is a lyrical tale of one young woman's anorexia and the impact it had had on her family. As if knowing and sensing what the readers want, Yara Zgheib teases out various theories as to why Anna developed anorexia, and let me just mention that it can be anything. From the outside, Anna appears to be happily married, a former ballet dancer who has moved to USA with her husband, but appearances are deceptive and Anna is suffering from anorexia, a mental illness (that's the conclusion I have drawn from the tale) that has taken roots way way before her journey to USA. As Anna goes to the 17 Swann Street, the reader becomes intimately familiar with the grip anorexia has on women living there and how difficult it is to shake off that grip and resist the patterns and impulse control. Yara Zgheib's sentences are incredibly beautiful and go straight to the heart, making this a difficult novel to put down.
(From the book)
Yara Zgheib is a Fullbriht scholar with degrees from Georgetown University and Centre D'etudes Diplomatiques et Strategiques in Paris. She is a writer for several U.S. and European magazines, including The Huffington Post and Holiday Magazine. THE GIRLS AT 17 SWANN STREET is her first novel.
The first time I have heard of Anorexia Nervousa and Bulimia is through a Lurlene McDaniel novel about a young girl who wants to be thin and becomes bulimic. From then on, I formed my own thoughts and conclusions about those two eating disorders, and it doesn't help that media pushed certain stereotypes about them as well; girls (very often women, although I understand men also suffer from it,) who suffer from Anorexia and Bulimia are most likely teens who are in competitive sports, and for me its very difficult to understand about how hard it is not to eat. This novel humanized that issue and I feel as if I can get a better grasp of Anorexia as well as Bulimia, despite me not suffering from it. What I think was most shocking for me in terms of THE GIRLS AT 17 SWANN STREET is the fact that eating disorders are not limited to teens, but in fact they can impact women in 20s, 30s and so forth; whether or not those women are married (which means that love can't conquer all) and whether or not they are mothers. I also was shocked to learn numerous facts about anorexia and bulimia as well: most which I'll leave to the reader to find out. In conclusion, its a beautiful and engrossing tale of psychology of anorexia and impact it has on everyone, be they the sufferer, family and/or friends. I honestly think the book should be read in as few settings as possible.
This was given for a review
5 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)