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.
Review: 5 Stars
“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.”
I was immediately captivated by the lyrical writing and the tone of this novel the second I started reading it. It is a hard book to set down, not because of the plot, but because of the writing itself. The support that the girls give one another lightens my heard when reading about such a heavy subject. I devoured this book in a day. The writing is incredible and while it was sad, it was also full of hope. Most of all, it was real.
“It is too late. I no longer know how to live without anorexia. I do not know who I am without it.”
While Anna is a fictitious character she truly comes to life in this book. Her struggle with anorexia is one that many people struggle with and it is a horrifying reality. This book really opened my eyes to what it really is like to be an adult woman who is terrified of food. I have read other novels about eating disorders before and none have felt as genuine as The Girls at 17 Swann Street. I think part of that is because it is written from personal experience, but also because the writing is so incredible.
“There were signs. There are always signs for those who know to look for them. They just never flash in red neon, warning: Danger: Risk of Death.“
Yara Zgheib shines light on an incredibly heavy topic, but also filled this book with enough hope and happy moments to keep it from being depressing. This book is so important, especially for those who relate to it’s content of eating disorders. WHile reading it I cried, I smiled, I hoped and most of all, I rooted for the girls in the story to get better. Terribly sad, but absolutely riveting, The Girls at 17 Swann Street was a book that I had a hard time setting down once I had started it.
“I know you tried, Anna. I know you really did, but if you could have fixed this you would have. If this were ‘just a problem’ you and I would not be sitting here.”
This is a story based on personal experience that needed to be told. After reading it I felt like I understood more about eating disorders than I thought possible. When a book is written that represent mental or physical illness, I think it is important to be shown truthfully, but also tactfully and Yara Zgheib manages this balance perfectly. I am left stunned that this is her debut novel. All I can say is to give this book a chance. It is important, and it is real.
“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.”