Imagine if you have a beautiful little girl, she dreams of going to college (university), she has friends, good grades and a beautiful smile. Now imagine that your daughter has been taken away from you, snatched seemingly overnight by a monster you cannot control. This is the dilemma that Harriet Brown faced over her 14 year old daughter Kitty who was diagnosed with anorexia.
Brown has really written a fantastic account of the struggles a family goes through, not just the individual. This is not your average true life story, what makes Brown’s work so brilliant is that she has really gone into detail to make people like you and I understand many different aspects of struggling with anorexia as an illness. In depth Brown presents case studies, the perceived history of the illness (which is incredibly fascinating, although obviously the exact history cannot be tracked due to a lack of information on the illness) and differing views on the causes of eating disorders. To contrast this she also voices her feelings of a mother, a mother who needs to know how she and her family can help her daughter battle this and ultimately keep her alive.
At first I found this novel really hard to read, although I don’t know if this is because I’m biased let me explain. When I was at school I was horrendously bullied, I found out later that this was indeed impacting my relationship with food. I ended up being scared of eating sometimes or I would get stressed and throw up a lot,I have no idea why. Harriet Brown however knows this was not the cause for her daughters illness, although food can be impacted in time of crises or unhappiness we are presented with Anorexia as a terribly unfair illness. The battle between a whole family and one illness is breathtaking and so,so hard but Brown has written it in a way that makes you want to read on, I was completely hooked.
I can’t give away what happens in the end but Brown lets you know that Kitty (whose name had been changed to protect her privacy which was a wonderful thing to do) does not die at the end, but your eyes really are opened to what happens to a day to day anorexic. Do you know what I found most shocking about the illness though? It wasn’t what it can do to your body, the emotional impact or the tiny amounts of food people can survive from. I was shocked and disgusted by the attitudes towards Harriet and her family, some by apparent healthcare professionals and by some states in the USA who do not recognize eating disorders as an illness and decide they are ‘self inflicted’. That made my blood boil, who would want that in their life? From poor Kitty’s pleas for help to her mother, the nights of screaming and fighting, having to temporarily give up on some of your dreams and the psychological impact even after you’ve beaten it? Wake up and smell the coffee people this is an illness, not a choice!
If Harriet Brown ever reads this, I for one would like to say thank you. Thank-you for highlighting mental health in a way that doesn’t make sufferers seem crazy. I feel this is a must read it is just so well written and factual. If I had my way novels like this would be taught in secondary schools to show the realization and raise awareness for this cause.
I give this 5 stars (although it really doesn’t seem enough) *****
I have my copy on kindle but if you would like to read it you can purchase from Amazon click here or your local book shop.
Review by Chloe Metzger