A moving and hopeful look at anorexia residential treatment, The Girls at 17 Swann Street by Yara Zgheib, follows Anna’s story. Anna’s background as a ballerina with a not-quite-naturally ballerina-thin body laid the groundwork for body dysmorphism, which reared its ugly head in a time of stress years later. Anna and her husband relocated to the US from France for her husband’s job, and she was left without a social support system. Living in a new culture without her beloved ballet to anchor her, Anna slips further and further into anorexia’s grasp, feeling that if she can just control her eating, she will be able to control other things in her life. After fainting, her doctor admits her to 17 Swann Street where she meets a handful of other women struggling with anorexia too, and it finally clicks how sick she is making herself and what it can lead to. Her progress and setbacks are portrayed through beautiful passages, and Anna finally finds her “something worth living for”.
I really liked this book, and it reminded me a lot of the Netflix movie To The Bone where Lily Collins plays a similar character in residential anorexia treatment. Both the book and the movie show the ups and downs of recovery in an unbiased and non-judgmental way, and both portray the relationships, boredom, longing, and everyday life that are part of life with anorexia- that the disease is not all its victims are, but only a part of them, although we often think of it as so defining. I felt encouraged and strengthened and more compassionate by the end of this one