Editor’s Note: This review involves anorexia, bulimia, eating disorders and their stigmas.
The new book by Yara Zgheib, The Girls at 17 Swann Street, is a fictional account of an extremely difficult disease and the difficult path to recovery. Anna Roux is a 26 year-old former ballerina. She loves her home country of France, her husband, and her family. Unfortunately, now in New York Anna suffers from anorexia and is at the point where if she does not complete treatment she will die. At under 90 pounds, subtle bumps and bruises become agony. She has no ability to control her body heat and every bite is a battle. With no hope left, she is brought to 17 Swann Street, a light pink home that houses women who are no longer able to fight on their own.
The Girls at 17 Swann Street is a brutal book, but anorexia is a brutal disease. Though Anna is fictional, her struggle seems very familiar. The book chiefly focuses on Anna, but also introduced readers to other characters that will relapse, be removed from treatment, and the stunning realization that sometimes when a new girl comes in, it means another girl has died. Yara Zgheib creates characters that feel like people you’ve met, and that makes it hurt so much more if someone is hurt. With facts about eating disorders mixed in, the book helps create a feeling of empathy for those who suffer from them.
The Girls at 17 Swann Street is now available from St. Martin’s Press.