(14)The Girls at 17 Swann Street by Yara Zgheib

Anna was just eighty-eight pounds when her husband, Mathias, dropped her off at 17 Swann Street.  After leaving her family behind in Paris to follow her husband to St. Louis, Anna dealt with the loneliness by slowly restricting her diet.  Soon she was only eating popcorn and fruit. And her dancer's body was starting to waste away.  Finally, Mathias takes a look at Anna and realizes that if he doesn't take immediate action, he will lose Anna forever.   Anna is terrified and exhausted and the thought of putting on weight is more than she can handle.  Her days at 17 Swann Street starts in the wee hours of the morning with the staff taking her vitals and her weight.  She has to eat three meals a day, as well as three snacks.  And if she refuses three times in a row, they give her a feeding tube.  A feeding tube.  The girls at 17 Swann Street are just like Anna.  They all struggle with their own food-based demons, but they support each other.  With both spoken and written words.  They don't leave the table until they are all ready to leave the table.   When one hurts,  they all hurt. When one celebrates, they all celebrate.   Will Anna ever get to celebrate getting her life back?  Or will anorexia take everything from her?

The Girls at 17 Swann Street is an achingly beautiful debut novel about a young woman battling anorexia. And make no mistake about it, it is a battle.  With every piece of food put in front of her, Anna has to make a conscious decision to eat.  Anna has something that most of the other girls in the house do not have, a loving husband that is by her side every step of the way.  Even when Anna makes it difficult for him. I loved their relationship.  I loved his devotion.  I loved how he sought out a special somebody to attend "Family Day."  Anorexia is such a lonely disease.  It doesn't get much attention in the media. Not since the 80's "After School Special" that I can remember, yet it is very much a battle that gets waged daily by thousands and thousands of women. And men. The author was almost lyrical in her descriptions of Anna's battle.  There was one particular moment that stands out when Anna and Mathias went out for dinner.  Anna has to wage an internal battle to not restrict her food when ordering.  She told her nutritionist what she was going to order and she had to fight to keep that promise.  The way the author described that battle was probably some of the best-written literature that I have ever read.   Unfortunately, not every girl at 17 Swann Street had a happy ending, but that only made the story seem that much more real.

Bottom Line - The Girls at 17 Swann Street is a beautiful novel about an ugly subject. There are many uncomfortable moments in the book, but Anna and Mathias are characters that you can support and cheer for enthusiastically.   Add this one to the Book Club list, you are going to want to discuss it with your girls.


Charlotte's Web of Books

I have been tangled in the web of words for a very long time. I remember being a child and riding my bike to the local library, only needing help getting home because I had checked out so many books.~~ My love of the written word has grown over the years. I recently left my dream job at Barnes & Noble to marry the man of my dreams. I am writing this blog to share with you the books I have read throughout the years. Please feel free to comment and discuss.

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