A Thousand Steps

A Thousand Steps
A Thousand Steps by T. Jefferson Parker

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

The Girls at 17 Swann Street- by Yara Zgheib- Feature and Review


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.



The Girls at 17 Swann StreetThe Girls at 17 Swann Street by Yara Zgheib
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Girls at 17 Swann Street by Yara Zgheib is a 2019 St. Martin’s Press publication.

An unflinching and realistic battle to overcome a life- threatening eating disorder.

Anna is twenty-six years old, originally from France, a former ballerina, now married to a Matthias, living in St. Louis. Matthias, after an eye-opening scene with Anna’s visiting family, heeds the wake-up call and admits Anna into a treatment facility at 17 Swann Street.

Anna relates her story, often in a detached, unemotional manner, but one that gets the message across, nonetheless. Anna is dying from anorexia- make no mistake about it and despite her best efforts, her decision to live, to fight her way out of treatment- for herself and for those who love her- is a long, long, harrowing journey.

The author uses a spare approach to the novel, which I felt was quite effective. It may feel sterile in a way, but I felt removing some of the emotional elements allowed me to focus on the reality of the situation, which was stark, harrowing, and brutal. While normally I prefer to make a closer connection to the characters, in this instance, I was grateful the author kept the reader at arm’s length just a little.

This book has been languishing on my TBR list for a long time. I think the subject matter kept me from starting it a few times, but I also seemed to recall some complaints about the quality of writing. I almost removed this title from the list- but then changed my mind and decided to check out the audio version- which worked out great for me. The narration matched to tone and seemed to fit Anna’s persona quite well. It may have even helped to bring in a stronger emotional element than one might experience otherwise.

Overall, this is a very powerful book, about a very important subject. It opens up an understanding about the disease, about treatment, the difficulty in overcoming such a disorder, and the gut-wrenching pain that loved ones endure, as well. It’s eye-opening in a way non-fictional books on the subject can’t quite capture, and will stick with me for a long time to come.



Yara is a reader, writer, traveler, lover of art and jazz. She was born in Beirut and has pieces of her heart in Paris, London, Boston, and one particularly beautiful Tuscan village.

She is the author of "The Girls at 17 Swann Street" and the forthcoming "No Land to Light On." Also, every Thursday, she posts an essay on "The non-Utilitarian:" thoughts on philosophy, art, poetry, science, literature, travel, and culture. On life in its beautiful ordinary. Her writings are neither practical nor useful. They are a way of being.

Her writing has also appeared in The Huffington Post, The Four Seasons Magazine, HOLIDAY, The European, WS Magazine, HOME Magazine, The Idea List, France Forward, Espresso Economics, A Woman's Paris, The Socio/Log, and elsewhere.


  1. I’m so glad to see your great review, Julie💜 This audiobook has languished on my shelf, too.

    1. Thanks so much, Jonetta! I think audio is the best way to experience this book. Would love to hear your thoughts on it. 💖


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