Thursday, July 02, 2015

Mini Reviews: Elena Vanishing by Elena Dunkle and My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor

From Back Cover: Seventeen-year-old Elena is vanishing. Every day means renewed determination, so every day means fewer calories. This is the story of a girl whose armor against anxiety becomes artillery against herself as she battles on both sides of a lose-lose war in a struggle with anorexia. Told entirely from Elena's perspective over a five-year period and co-written with her mother, award-winning author Clare B. Dunkle, Elena's memoir is a fascinating and intimate look at a deadly disease, and a must read for anyone who knows someone suffering from an eating disorder.

My Review: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: I normally don’t read memoirs – actually, this is the first memoir I’ve ever read – but since I’m fascinated with the subject of mental health, I couldn’t resist an inside look into the mind of someone with anorexia. For some reason though, I wasn’t completely captivated by Elena Dunkle’s Elena Vanishing. I think this was probably because I’m not used to reading memoirs, where there are jumps in time between chapters and people that are briefly mentioned who don’t reappear again until much later, by which time I’ve already forgotten who they are and their importance. I still thought this novel was interesting; and liked that Elena’s memoir shows how hard it is to treat anorexia and that this disorder isn’t just about extreme dieting. 

Some interesting facts about anorexia are:
  • There are two types of anorexia: 1) the restricting type and 2) the binge-eating/purging type.
    • The binge-eating/purging type is more common.
  • It has a high mortality rate (about 10%).
    • Many anorexics often die due to heart failure.
  • Medical consequences of anorexia include amenorrhea, osteoporosis, sensitivity or intolerance to the cold, cardiovascular problems, heart failure, electrolyte imbalance (if there’s a lot of bingeing and purging), edema, constipation, abdominal pain, hair loss, and brittle hair and nails.
  • One factor that may increase the risk of developing anorexia is having premorbid personality characteristics such as perfectionism or OCD tendencies.
  • Another factor that may contribute to the development of an eating disorder is feeling a lack of control in other areas of your life. So, food becomes the one thing a person with an eating disorder feels that they can control.
Elena Vanishing was released by Chronicle Books in May 2015. 
In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Raincoast Books) for free.
From Goodreads: Jill Taylor was a 37-year-old Harvard-trained brain scientist when a blood vessel exploded in her brain. Through the eyes of a curious scientist, she watched her mind deteriorate whereby she could not walk, talk, read, write, or recall any of her life. Because of her understanding of the brain, her respect for the cells in her body, and an amazing mother, Jill completely recovered. In My Stroke of Insight, she shares her recommendations for recovery and the insight she gained into the unique functions of the two halves of her brain. When she lost the skills of her left brain, her consciousness shifted away from normal reality where she felt "at one with the universe." Taylor helps others not only rebuild their brains from trauma, but helps those of us with normal brains better understand how we can consciously influence the neural circuitry underlying what we think, how we feel and how we react to life's circumstances.  

My Rating: 3 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor was a book that I had in my TBR pile for years, ever since I heard about it in one of my undergraduate neuroscience courses. The premise just sounded so cool: a neuroscientist has a stroke and is able to recover and talk about her experience from a neuroscience background. Unfortunately, My Stroke of Insight wasn’t exactly what I expected, Although I liked the first few chapters where Bolte Taylor described what she experienced on the morning of the stroke, how her deterioration related to different brain structures and functions, and strategies that aided in her recovery, the latter section of the memoir focused too much on how she now feels more at one with the universe. The tone during this portion of My Stroke of Insight was just too sappy for me, and I struggled trying to finish the book.

My Stroke of Insight was released in May 2008 by Viking Adult.


  1. Memoirs! Well, good for you for branching out, I say. Memoirs aren't really my thing either, but I'm sure they can be quite good as long as you are interested in the topic, like you were with these ones (mostly). I like how they would be a good learning source without being as dry as a textbook.

  2. Memoirs aren't my thing either, but if I can learn something frkm them then I think it's a good read.

  3. Books about anoraxia are very important. Having a friend who survivrd through this, I can tell that readers must get to know more and help those in need. Thank you for the reviews!

  4. I don't read a ton of memoirs, but when I do, I seem to really enjoy them! I have only read two in the past year, but they were both fantastic!!

  5. Great reviews. My dad had a stroke at a young age; the books sound interesting. :)


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