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This novel about a young wife's stay at a small residential treatment center for eating disorders, stunned me into complete absorption, the same way as reading "The Bell Jar" once did. The story moves back and forth between Anna's previous life as a ballerina, and her current situation, told in dialogue both spoken and internal. Every hour of each patient's day is monitored and accounted for with calorie counted meals, therapy sessions, and the occasional family visit, class, or outing. Not finishing any meal (including all of the salad dressing and all of the cream cheese that comes with the bagel) sentences an inmate to a feeding tube. Anna's fellow patients Valerie, Julia, Emm, and Sarah are well drawn characters who represent an unfortunate reality--most will relapse, and many even die from anorexia, as their families fail to see it and struggle to understand it. Not only is this an accomplished first novel, it is likely to become recommended reading for families affected by anorexia and bulimia.
— From Carla's Picks
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.
"...an impressive, deeply moving debut. " - Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
"Zgheib's lyrical, dream-like style will resonate with fans of Wally Lamb's and Anne Tyler's novels and Augusten Burroughs' memoirs." - Booklist
"Moving . . a nuanced portrait of a woman struggling against herself." - Kirkus
“One of the best books I’ve read. Powerful and poignant...” - Jen Lancaster, New York Times bestselling author of I Regret Nothing
"Grabbed me from the first page. If you are interested in compelling characters and/or complex issues, this is a must read." - Lisa Gardner, New York Times Bestselling author
"Heartbreaking and beautiful . . . a brave book, stark in its realism, yet tempered by its lyrical prose." - Diane Chamberlain, New York Times bestselling author of The Dream Daughter
"Heart-wrenching and beautiful . . . a must read." - Erica Bauermeister, national bestselling author of The School of Essential Ingredients
"Written with spare, poetic grace, The Girls at 17 Swann Street is engaging, tragic and ultimately hopeful. It opened my eyes as well as my heart." - Susan Crandall, national bestselling author of The Myth of Perpetual Summer