The Girls at 17 Swann Street by Yara Zgheib

The Girls at 17 Swann Street

4 Stars

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Date of publication: February 5th, 2019

Genre: Women’s fiction

Where you can find The Girls at 17 Swann Street: Amazon | Barnes and Noble

Goodreads synopsis:

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.

My review

Anna is wasting away. Her husband has ignored that she is starving herself to death until he finds her passed out in the bathroom. When she goes to the Dr at his urging, Anna weighs only 88 lbs. At the Dr’s urging, Anna is sent to an inpatient rehabilitation center. Her time at 17 Swann Street is eye-opening. Can Anna let the staff and therapists, along with the other girls, help her reclaim her life? Or will Anna be destined to be a regular?

Anorexia has always been one of those disorders that people dislike talking about. It isn’t talked about enough. Anorexia and bulimia (as well as compulsive overeating and other food/exercise related disorders) need to be talked about. They shouldn’t be swept under the rug.  This disorder needs to be front and center. It needs to be talked about. 

I sat and read this book within 2 hours. I didn’t plan on sitting and reading it in one sitting. It just happened. The Girls at 17 Swann Street is a fast read. It is an emotional read too. At one point, I was mad at myself because I didn’t have a box of tissues on hand to wipe my eyes. What got me was how raw Anna’s emotions were. 

I will point out that the book is written in a way that might annoy some people. It would have annoyed me if I wasn’t so taken with how the book began. The book goes between past and present with little warning. I would normally moan and groan about that but not this time. It actually worked with this book. The author was able to flawlessly go between present and past. The only issue I had was reading the clinical observations. I want to say that they were supposed to be the beginning of chapters. But because the formatting of the book was off, they ended up being in the middle of the book.

I liked how Anna’s time in the program was realistic. She had her good days and her bad days. She made progress and she regressed. There were times in the book, mainly when the stuff happened with Valerie, that I thought she wasn’t going to make it. That she was going to be a regular.

The girls in the program touched my heart also. The background that was given on some of them was heartbreaking. I also felt for the staff. They had to counsel the girls. They had to force them to eat. They had to insert feeding tubes for the ones that refused. It must have been so draining for them. But they came back day after day to help those girls.

I liked the statistics that were sprinkled in throughout the book.  There were some that I didn’t know. There were some that made my heart hurt.

I also liked how the author showed how Anna’s progression into anorexia was. From the impossibly high standards that the ballerina world holds to the ex-boyfriend who was cruel about how much Anna ate to the anxiety and guilt over her brother’s death, it was all there. It also showed that Anna’s husband chose to ignore how skinny she was getting. Chose to overlook her only eating apples and lettuce. Chose to overlook her excessive exercising. Chose to overlook those things until it was almost too late. 

The ending was what kept this book from being a 5-star review. It seemed too perfect. I am not going to get into why it seemed too perfect. All I have to say is that I was kinda “meh” about it. It was not real life.

I gave The Girls at 17 Swann Street a 4-star rating. This was a fast, emotional read. While I didn’t mind the way the book was written, I do think that some people would have an issue. I would suggest reading with a box of tissues nearby. The only thing I didn’t like about the book was the ending. It was too perfect.

I would give The Girls at 17 Swann Street an Adult rating. There is sex (not graphic but there). There is language. There is no violence. There are trigger warnings. They would be mental illness, eating disorders, talk of rape, the death of a sibling.

I would reread The Girls at 17 Swann Street. I would also reccomend this book to family and friends.

I would like to thank St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for allowing me to read and review The Girls at 17 Swann Street.

All opinions stated in this review of The Girls at 17 Swann Street are mine.

**I chose to leave this review after reading an advance reader copy**

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