Anna Roux feels much older than her 26 years. Her hair, skin, bones, and organs have been deprived of nourishment for far too long, and her thoughts are muffled by a persistent fog of anxiety, irritability, and hunger. Still, when Anna agrees to enter an inpatient treatment facility for anorexia nervosa, she's terrified to confront the demon she's carried inside for so long. Finding comfort and support in their shared struggles, Anna and her fellow patients at 17 Swann Street embark on the most difficult journey of their lives. This powerful and poetic debut by Fulbright scholar Zgheib dives into the confusing, desperate, and heart-wrenching world of recovery from disordered eating. Zgheib never lets Anna's diagnosis define her but convincingly allows it to inform every decision her character makes. Instead of tying up Anna's journey with a neat bow, the novel's resolution is tentative, hopeful, and realistic. Zgheib's lyrical, dream-like style, the perfect match for Anna's alternately foggy and focused thought processes, will resonate with fans of Wally Lamb's and Anne Tyler's novels and Augusten Burroughs' memoirs. Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.
Library Journal Reviews
DEBUT Anna, a young Frenchwoman, finds herself at a treatment facility in the St. Louis suburbs for those suffering from eating disorders. How did she get here, and how will she survive this grim situation? She had followed her loving husband, Matthias, when he took a new job in America. Already suffering from anorexia, the former ballerina is bored and lonely, and further denial seems to be the answer. Her life starts to spiral downhill, and when her weight reaches a frightening 88 pounds, she becomes a patient at 17 Swann Street. The girls at this facility regard food as the enemy and every bite as a battle, as the counselors firmly insist on their eating a bland but wholesome diet. Some gradually get better; some don't. Anna describes her inner feelings in a poetic voice, and her story is a compelling revelation of what starvation does to the brain. However, readers could have benefitted from learning more about Anna's childhood trauma, only vaguely alluded to here. VERDICT While young women make up the target readership for this gripping story, it will give anyone a clearer understanding of what it's like to look at life (and food) from the viewpoint of someone suffering from this terrible disease. [See Prepub Alert, 8/27/17.]—Leslie Patterson, Rehoboth, MA
Copyright 2018 Library Journal.
Publishers Weekly Reviews
In her powerful debut, Zgheib masterfully chronicles the pain of an anorexic's distorted thinking and intense fear of food in a riveting diarylike structure. Plucked from Paris to St. Louis, former dancer Anna Aubry Roux is 26 years old, married, and in the fight of her life with a severe eating disorder. After fainting in the bathroom and being discovered by her husband, Anna is sent to a residential treatment facility. She is still in denial about her condition, even as she drops to 88 pounds. As she bonds with the other women, including former Olympian hopeful Emm and tortured Ivy League grad Valerie, Anna sees herself in them, and they in her; indeed, it is the residents who show Anna how much she has to live for. Anna's fits and starts toward recovery are realistically and poignantly depicted. The author also adroitly shows how past traumas (for Anna, her brother's death in a car accident and her mother's death by suicide) can manifest in a relentless need for control. This is an impressive, deeply moving debut. 100,000-copy announced first printing. (Feb.)
Copyright 2018 Publishers Weekly.
A French ballerina with self-perception challenges descends into anorexia when an injury sidelines her career, landing her in a support home for women with life-threatening eating disorders. A first novel. - (Baker & Taylor)
A French ballerina with self-perception challenges descends into anorexia when an injury sidelines her career, landing her in a support home for women with life-threatening eating disorders. - (Baker & Taylor)
*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.
- (McMillan Palgrave