Sonderbooks Stand-out

Sonderbooks Book Review of

Hope and Other Luxuries

A Mother's Life with a Daughter's Anorexia

by Clare B. Dunkle

Hope and Other Luxuries

by Clare B. Dunkle

Review posted June 23, 2015.
Chronicle Books, San Francisco, 2015. 557 pages.
Starred Review
2015 Sonderbooks Standout:
#1 Nonfiction, Personal Stories

I met Clare Dunkle after I gave her first book a glowing review and then discovered she also lived in Germany. She's one of those people I can talk with for hours, and I think of her as a friend.

When I saw she had another book out, I preordered it. When it came, I meant to read a little bit each night, but ended up reading a lot each night for quite awhile.

This is an honest -- and painful -- story about a mother dealing with her daughter's anorexia. Even though my family does not have that particular issue, Clare's writing pulled me in and made me feel like I knew what that would be like.

I especially related when she talked about how the voice that hurt the most was her own voice from the past, the voice of the extraordinary mother.

Good girls have good mothers. Extraordinary girls have extraordinary mothers. But deeply troubled girls? Oh, the old me knew all about them.

That's how I used to be about marriages. Because I had an extraordinary and wonderful marriage. So whose fault must it have been when it all fell apart?

As I said, I had totally different circumstances from Clare, but she is open and honest about her journey, and I saw myself in her.

Clare also writes about her journey as an author. She describes her process -- and honestly? Makes me feel like Not a Writer At All. I thought I had an imagination! But nothing like hers -- distracted by her own imaginings. (At least when it's going well.)

However, that didn't surprise me. I already knew I love Clare's books. And even in this nonfiction memoir, Clare writes words that pull me in and make me experience them. Hearing more about her process shone a light on her gift -- even while the words she uses communicate so well, so pull you along and make you unable to stop reading.

Besides all that, I now feel I understand better the awful illness of anorexia. And I'm so glad that Clare and her daughter Elena have come so far with Hope intact. May this book supply Hope to many other families going through that. As someone who's "only" been through divorce, I can say that I find this story of her journey honest, helpful, uplifting -- and hope-bringing.

Thank you, Clare, for putting your heart in these pages.