eating disorder

Book Review: Bone and Bread

A huge thanks to Edelweiss+ for providing me with a copy of this novel.

As I’ve mentioned many times on my blog, I have anorexia. I struggle with mental health issues and I believe books on the topic are extremely important. This took my interest for that reason, but I didn’t expect this unique view. Beena’s sister, Sadhana, is diagnosed with anorexia at 14 – after a rather traumatic, difficult childhood. Beena recaps their early days, while simultaneously narrating her current-day life. At first, Beena only vaguely references Sadhana’s illness, but it soon becomes clear that her heart attack was brought on by the eating disorder.

This book is about Sadhana’s struggle, her sister’s sire attempts to help her, and her grief at Sadhana’s eventual passing, but it is also about so much more. It is about Beena’s teenage pregnancy and single motherhood. It is about the death of their parents, one by one, before they were even midway through their teens. It is about Sadhana’s on-off struggles, Beena’s exhaustion at being her carer, their relationship and arguments and love. It is also about Sadhana’s life, separate to Beena’s, her secret girlfriend. It’s about life overall, really. And while the anorexia is a huge part of it, it isn’t the whole story.

It was written fantastically, and the opinions Beena gives on Sadhana’s illness are really quite unique. She expresses her anger and frustration, and the tiring nature of caring for her sister throughout her life. She does not express the sympathy and sadness toward sufferers that is often portrayed in books.

Sometimes, I did find Beena a bit too harsh – and Sadhana, too, actually. But overall the characterisation was great, and the relationship between the girls is so complex it feels real. 4.5 stars.

Advertisements

Book Review: Alice in The Looking Glass – A Mother and Daughter’s Experience of Anorexia

I’m probably more obsessed with ED books than is healthy, but it’s so reassuring to read other people’s experiences that are similar to my own. This book was absolutely fantastic – not only did it help me see that I’m not alone or abnormal, but I was also able to read a mother’s point of view on the experience. I understand now how awful it must have been for my own mother during my inpatient hospital stay and the initial battle of getting a diagnosis.
I found it interesting that they gave Jo (the mother)’s perspective first, instead of Alice herself. We learn about what she witnesses before we find out exactly what Alice was actually thinking and feeling.

They don’t include weights or numbers in this, which is tremendously helpful. Like Jo says, this is a competitive illness, and even parents seem to want to compete in having the “most poorly” child. But it’s so triggering for other people to read about how much weight someone lost, and it’s not really relevant. Weight loss is just a side affect of the illness, and not the main issue itself.

The reality is addressed so honestly in this book, all the feelings and experiences that we may be ashamed to admit are written in black and white. It made me feel a lot less guilty about things that I’ve felt, knowing other people have felt the same way, too. And the recovery aspect was not unrealistically easy or happy; Alice is not completely recovered even at the end of the book, but is managing her illness. That is how most of us will live for a long time, if not for the rest of our lives. But Alice expresses how she is so much happier “managing” her anorexia than she was when she was suffering years ago. It gives hope – even if you don’t fully recover, life can be good. 

I really loved this book. I’d urge anyone with a loved one who is suffering from an eating disorder (or has one themselves) to read this, as it would really help seeing both perspectives on the journey. 5 stars.

Book Review: Nothing Tastes as Good

Nothing Tastes as Good

Nothing Tastes as Good by Claire Hennessy – Papberback, 336 pages – Published July 14th 2016 by Hot Key Books

I happened to see this book by chance, in my local library. I was drawn to it because of it’s cover, it’s title – I’m anorexic, and I happen to be drawn to things relating to mental health. It doesn’t expressly say on it that it’s about anorexia, but the cover made it pretty obvious to me. A warning to anyone that wants to read it: it’s hard. If you suffer from something like this, like me, then you will probably have difficulty reading something so close to home. Especially if you’re recovering. But it gets better. (I mean the book; I’m not using that “life gets better” crap.)

So Annabel is dead. I’m studying The Lovely Bones at school so the whole beyond-death narration isn’t that special to me now. But Hennessy does it pretty differently to Sebold.

We don’t know much about Annabel, not at first. But we begin to learn about her while she helps her assigned “soul-in-need” – The Boss (definitely not God) has promised her a final communication with her family if she helps Julia. And this looks easy, at first – Julia is from Annabel’s old school, with a loving family and good grades. Everything is fine, except she’s fat. Annabel thinks this should be easy – after all, she’s an expert in weight loss. She lost weight until she died.

But Annabel soon finds out that Julia’s issues are a whole lot more complex than her weight. At first, losing weight helps. But then her old scars come back to haunt her, and Annabel realises that maybe losing weight isn’t going to fix all her problems.

Aside from the obvious issue, this book does talk about a lot of important topics. It covers friendships and relationships, like most YA novels do, but it also combats ideas on feminism, affairs with older men, and people all having their own hidden demons.

At first, I wasn’t keen on Annabel. I wanted to like her – I felt I should, because I could relate to her story so much. But she was a bitch. She wanted other people to be like her, and rather than encouraging recovery and health and happiness, she shared tipped on weight loss. It really did hurt to read. Her ideas on “perfection” and being weak for eating just really hit a nerve for me. Not because it was wrong (though I’d never encourage an eating disorder in someone else), but because it’s exactly how I’d think about myself. Her behaviours, her worries, her anger – they were so real.

But Annabel, despite being dead, grows alongside Julia. Yes, she tells Julia to starve herself and run on an empty stomach and hate herself, but eventually she starts to feel for her. She wants Julia to combat her issues, to actually be happy. And she realises, despite having been so upset with her old friends for recovering, that maybe she wasted her life. Maybe she could have been something more, rather than striving to be less.

I found this really emotional. Annabel’s love for her sister, the sister she neglected for years while she was focused on her goals, and the future she cut short. The way Julia’s life changed when her passion for writing and journalism was overtaken by her obsession with food, calories, exercise. It’s so real and so sad. And the ending isn’t “happily ever after” – Annabel’s still dead, Julia’s in counselling – but it’s real. It gives hope that things can change, that Julia can really achieve happiness.

At first, I didn’t like this that much. I know Annabel is just a character, but I just didn’t like her. She was one of those girls that makes anorexia sound like a choice, a lifestyle, and I hated that. But later she realises she is sick, and I actually felt sorry for her. I was sorry that she had been brainwashed by her illness into believing she was doing what was right.

The only reason I’m giving just 4.5 stars to this book is because Annabel was a bitch. Yes, she is a character, and yes, she grows considerably throughout the novel, but her encouragement of EDs just drove me insane. Personal pet peeve, I guess.

866A98B32CBD639D32E20CEBF70E4491

Book Review: Paperweight

Paperweight - Paperback Cover

Paperweight by Meg Haston – Paperback, 287 pages – Published 2015 by HarperTeen

This. Book. Is. Amazing.

There aren’t enough books about such serious and common topics like this. I’m not going to lie, I found this rather hard to read due to how it brought back so many personal memories for me. I should warn any potential readers that this book includes a log of negative language about body image, mentions of self-harm and suicide, and a lot about eating disorders and behaviours.

Stevie, a 17-year-old girl who’s mother left and brother died, has her self-destruction plans halted when her father sends her to an eating disorder treatment centre. This book follows her through a twenty-seven day period of pain and conflicting thoughts and emotions.

Throughout Stevie’s time at the treatment centre, the reader is told about her life through little snippets here and there. We learn about her behaviours and thoughts as her eating disorder developed, about the day her mother left, and the time around her brother’s death.

Stevie is carrying so much guilt and pain, and all she wants is to disappear on the anniversary of the accident. But her shrink, Anna, is desperate to help her live her life.

This book is so accurately written. The things Stevie thinks and does often reflect myself and people I’ve known while really struggling with eating disorders. The daunting prospect of recovery looms over her, making her unsure of what her goal really is. She was so sure she wanted to die… But now she’s met Ashley, and Anna, and rethought her plan. What once seemed so simple and obvious, Stevie is no longer sure she wants.

Paperweight is so emotional, accurately telling the story of Stevie’s personal experiences with an eating disorder as well as her struggles after her mother moved away and her brother was killed. It combats so many topics that I’ve rarely seen in other books, and is just so greatly written… I love it. 5 stars!