Written by Elena Dunkle and her mother Clare B. Dunkle, ‘Elena Vanishing’ is probably one of the most poignant books I have read this year, if ever. It is a detailed account of the author’s battle with anorexia nervosa, exploring the various treatments, pitfalls and highs that she felt over the years.
By the end of this book, I was close to tears. While I don’t have anorexia myself, there was definitely something I could relate to in Elena’s struggle and seeing her fight through and all that she went through, it was emotional – terrifying, heart-wrenching with hope mixed in for good measure. The little voice in her head was probably the scariest part of the book, and the way it was depicted gave it that extra sense of power – its control was cruel and devastating.
This book is short, yet it is the perfect length for what Elena is trying to achieve. By keeping the book short and the writing style entertaining but simple, she is able to reach out to a large number of people, raising awareness of anorexia as well as giving hope to those who are trying to recover themselves. I, myself, feel like I learnt so much from the book and it has definitely made me think.
I will say, however, that despite the friendly writing style and short length, this book is very difficult to read. It’s quick, but the content can be disturbing, especially since Elena is written in quite a relatable manner. Elena goes through a lot, including rape and miscarriage as well as the eating disorder, so readers should be wary of any triggers that might occur.
There were a couple of minor points that were not that great, for instance it was quite difficult to keep track of time as the novel jumps from instant to instant and the length does detract from the amount of depth that could have been gone into about the various treatments and how it was affecting Elena. However, I can understand why the author may not want to go into too much detail about certain things, due to the trauma involved.
I also have a copy of ‘Hope and Other Luxuries’ which was written by Elena’s mother, Clare B. Dunkle. I am really looking forward to reading that and seeing the same events and experiences from another perspective.