Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book is haunting. The writing is beautiful and bleak at the same time. The author delves deep into the world of eating disorders in a fictional narrative that explores the thoughts, feelings, history and compulsions behind addiction in many forms.
It is written from the viewpoint of a teenage young woman dealing with anorexia whose best (and also estranged) friend has just died. We are kind of dropped into the middle of the story at this point and must wait to find out how her friend died, why they are estranged, why the main character is anorexic, how that applies to the death of her friend, etc.
As I read the viewpoint of this teenage girl and the things she believes are truth and the way she views her parents and family I was really haunted by what things I might unintentionally be doing or not doing that could eventually lead my children to have some of the recurring negative thoughts this young woman has. As we get glimpses of what leads to her eating disorder, and friend choices, and decision to cut herself, we begin to see the entire tapestry of what leads people to make certain choices. It made me think about the things that have affected my own tapestry but also how I affect others.
The complexity with which the story is told leads the reader to realize there is no easy or quick fix to these problems. It also shows us the inseparable connection between our mental health and our physical health. It challenges our perceptions of the world and helps us, for a few hundred pages, to perceive the world from the viewpoint of someone who is in a very dark place. It is hard to convince someone that they are not seeing truth. It's hard to convince someone who is stuck in darkness to believe there is light out there. Or someone who is stuck in winter that Spring will come.
Beyond the plot of this book I also really enjoyed the actual writing style. The main character becomes so alive for the reader as we get to hear her every thought. And why she thinks that. And the story behind why she thinks that. The author manages to do this without being boring or bogging us down with lengthy descriptions of past events. There were many parts where I could feel exactly what the main character was feeling or see the world the way she wanted us to.
The writing is also very poetic. While she does use a basic narrative style for some of the story, it is interspersed between sections of beautiful poetry. There were many paragraphs that could stand alone and be discussed at length without the surrounding book text. I think that is the mark of a gifted author.
Can't wait to discuss it at book group!
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