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Reviews of what you should be reading next.

Tag: recovery

The Girls of 17 Swann Street by Yara Zgheib

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.

Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC!

THE GIRLS OF 17 SWANN STREET is a poignant and haunting story of a girl who is battling anorexia only because those around her want her to “get better”. Her demons and self-loathing have caused her to deny herself foods that she used to love. Her marriage is slipping away, full of unspoken words as Anna becomes thinner and thinner. Finally, her husband brings her to 17 Swann Street, where she will undergo treatment.

The author’s way of demonstrating the character’s struggle is intense – the reader is thrown into Anna’s mind through internal rumination and flashbacks, which serve to illuminate the deepest thoughts of an anorexic. Anna is not sure if she wants to live or die, even as those around her suffer with the same affliction and vanish. Throughout the course of the story Anna’s fate remains uncertain, as she takes one step forward and two steps back. Her struggle to consume enough calories under the watchful eyes of the clinic staff (who go un-named in an effort to dehumanize them, an excellent tactic by the author) is laid bare as she is shamed publicly for hiding a small bit of cream cheese in her napkin and then throwing it out.

As I read I wondered when Anna was just going to give up – her character is severely depressed and tragic. She does everything in her power to drive her husband away, despite his constant visits. She battles the staff over each mouthful of food she is forced to eat. In fact, she is such a morose person that at times I wished she would make a choice, rather than simply give up. However, it sounds like the author either did excellent research or she has personal experience with the disorder, because Anna’s behavior is exactly what you would expect from someone with depression and concurrent anorexia.

The book is an easy read – I got through it in one day because I was driven to know what would happen to Anna. As I mentioned before, at times I wasn’t sure if I was on her side or not. It was heartbreaking to see her shunning her husband, who clearly adored her. It was frustrating to see her work really hard, then seemingly change her mind and give in to her old habits. Self-care is not easy when you hate yourself, and Anna’s character is proof that the mind can be an evil, overpowering entity that robs one of the ability to control their life. I felt the cold fingers of depression reaching for me once I finished the book – it’s so real that it gets into your own head and makes you wonder if you are ok, if you will be ok.

Want your own copy of this haunting book? You can pick it up here.

Airbag Scars (Micah Reed #1) by Jim Heskett

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Micah Reed’s name isn’t Micah Reed. He was born someone else, before the trial, before his new identity. Now he wants to leave his life of crime in the past, but it seems to keep finding him.

After a serious car crash, he wakes to find his body aching and battered, with bruised knuckles and a black eye. What happened last night?
And while he chases clues to piece together the events preceding the car crash, a psychotic former acquaintance will make a sudden and violent appearance. Donovan went to jail because of Micah’s testimony, and now he wants to see Micah pay for his sins.
And it won’t only be Micah’s life in jeopardy, if he can’t fight off Donovan and solve the mystery of where his missing time has gone.

Thanks to author Jim Heskett for providing me with this review copy! He is also the author of Reagan’s Ashes, reviewed by GTB here.

Micah is an alcoholic who fears that he may have killed someone while driving drunk. He’s a self deprecating, honest character whose private thoughts run from the sublime to the ridiculous. The part when he was in rehab and talking to his orange juice made me laugh, as did the parts where he addresses the head of Boba Fett (his constant companion, in his pocket).

The tone and style of this book is very different from Heskett’s other work, and I can see more Micah Reed books on the way. His character is written such that bits and pieces of his former life are doled out slowly along the way, and even by the end of the book you may not know exactly what makes him tick.

The story line seems convoluted in parts, especially in the case of Donovan, who is seeking to ruin Micah and is going about it the long way. Donovan is an angry guy given to fits of rage, and has cooked up a dish of revenge that he’s desperate to serve to Micah. There is a strip club with multiple bodyguards that are out to get Micah as well, and the specter of the bottle is always lurking.

As the book progresses some of the plot twists become a little murky, but eventually it clears up. The last few chapters go by in a flash, and it seemed a bit hurried and a bit unsatisfying to me. Overall I enjoyed it, just not the way the way things were wrapped up. For example: there was a character killed by Donovan and then never mentioned again, not even to have the others ponder her demise…kind of a loose end. It seemed like most of the book was full of showing, and the last part was full of telling.

None of these things were deal breakers, however. I chalk that up to the author becoming familiar with this new character and developing his voice. Micah is a likeable guy despite his flaws; indeed, because of them. He’s caught in a world where his past has come home to roost, and he’s at a loss. I’m looking forward to the next installment to see what new details are revealed about his past, and how he manages to get himself (and Boba Fett) out of trouble again.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up [easyazon_link identifier=”B015QH2O3C” locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

 

 

 

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