Girls at 17 Swann Street
by Zgheib, Yara

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.

Yara Zgheib is a Fulbright scholar with a Masters degree in Security Studies from Georgetown University and a PhD in International Affairs in Diplomacy from Centre D'études Diplomatiques et Stratégiques in Paris. She is fluent in English, Arabic, French, and Spanish. Yara is a writer for several US and European magazines, including The Huffington Post, The Four Seasons Magazine, A Woman's Paris, The Idea List, and Holiday Magazine. She is the author of The Girls at 17 Swann Street and writes on culture, art, travel, and philosophy on her blog, "Aristotle at Afternoon Tea."

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.

A French expat battles anorexia at an in-patient facility in the American Midwest. The plot of Zgheib's debut novel is very simple: Anna, a 26-year-old, checks into a treatment facility for anorexia at the behest of her beloved husband, who cannot continue to pretend she is not starving. It was not always like this: Once, Anna was a ballet dancer in Paris, where she and Matthias exuberantly fell in love. But then Anna got injured and stopped dancing, and Matthias took a job in St. Louis, and she followed, and now here she is in Bedroom 5 at 17 Swann St., amid a crew of other women, in varying states of distress. Some of them will get better. Some of them won't. "You're one of the lucky ones," one of the girls tells her, shortly after her arrival. "You have a reason to survive." This turns out to be true. Over her weeks of treatment—time is demarcated with medical reports, helpfully summarizing her weight and mental state—Anna fights treatment and then surrenders t o it. Most of the novel is concerned with the details of her recovery, which are wrenching, in a quiet sort of way: the agony of eating half a bagel with cream cheese; the guilt over what she's put her family through. We also get flashbacks to her life before illness: childhood walks with her father; eating crepes on her wedding day. There are heavy hints of past traumas—a bad boyfriend; a dead brother and mother; a stagnant dance career—but mercifully, Zgheib doesn't spend much time connecting these too closely to Anna's current state, an acknowledgment that the disease, like Anna, is complicated. And yet the novel's greatest strength is its simplicity. There is no unusually dramatic backstory; Matthias is kind and relentlessly loving; Anna is, in all but her Frenchness, unexceptional. It's a story we've read before; it's moving nonetheless. A nuanced portrait of a woman struggling against herself. Copyright Kirkus 2018 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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