"With the storytelling skills of a great novelist and the eye for detail of a poet…"
I must say I was very, very impressed with De Rossi’s writing right from the get go. The phrase I quoted above is from the book jacket. When I read it I couldn’t help but be a little skeptical. That’s pretty high praise. Could she really be a gifted writer? But, my goodness, what a talented story teller! De Rossi does pay such incredible attention to detail. At times it was possible to forget that I was reading non-fiction. And I found myself not wanting to put the book down. I picked it up anytime I had a spare minute. It might be a little crazy because I can see this woman now; she appears so healthy and happy. I knew the book had to have a happy ending, but I was so caught up in her tale. I felt I was abandoning her every time I had to put the book down. I just wanted to keep reading until I got to a point where she was okay. But this is a memoir of the time in which De Rossi was living with an eating disorder, there wasn’t going to be a reprieve from the sadness and struggle until the very end. I’m so glad she included a few details from her life now as well. You can feel Ellen’s love for Portia when she speaks of her. It just seems to leap off the screen. Ellen truly seems like such a positive, giving person. I wanted to know more about this woman who seems to be the light in Ellen’s life. De Rossi was very secretive about her private life before coming out, and she still seems to be a fairly private person now. I think it’s very brave of her to tell the world her story, to put all the ugly facts out there for everyone to see. And I think she will help a lot of people with her tale and open up an understanding in others.
It was a bit scary at times. I would forget that what De Rossi was describing is a sickness. She would be relating some line of thinking or reasoning she was using for her diet and exercise routine, and I would find myself thinking, “That sounds logical. I wonder if that would work.” (I no longer have the metabolism I had in my twenties!) Oh, but it only took reading a few more pages to be reminded just how wrong her thinking was. The dark twisted place in which De Rossi dwelt during that time is by turns fascinating and terrifying. But I could also identify with the way she describes honing in on the parts of her body that bother her the most. I think most women will be able to relate to that and so many other crazy thoughts that De Rossi shares. While reading this book, people will undoubtedly learn about Portia, but they may learn a bit about themselves as well.
One of the biggest lessons I will take away from this book came from the interactions between De Rossi and her mother. When one thinks of the parent of a teen model turned anorexic, one might naturally assume that the mother pushed her to be thin, but Portia never describes such circumstances. She does, however, describe several memories she has of her mother making comments that were clearly about her mother’s own body image issues. And those moments profoundly affected De Rossi. How scary to think that even the most supportive of mothers, the ones who tell their daughters they are beautiful and perfect just the way they are, can pass body image issues on to their children. What an incredible lesson for me as a mother. I not only have to make my daughter understand that she is lovely just the way she is, I have to learn to accept myself as I am as well. Otherwise what kind of an example am I presenting?
The only part of the book that did not fully engross me was part of the epilogue. De Rossi describes her current outlook on food and exercise and her veganism. While I can agree with a lot of what she said, the book began to feel like a self help book at that point, rather than a memoir. I found it a little off-putting. But on the whole I really enjoyed this book. You do not need to be a huge fan of Portia De Rossi (or Ellen) to find this book fascinating. Her story is enthralling, and it sheds so much light on the way so many of us perceive ourselves as women. I would recommend this book to any of my girl friends, my mother, and pretty much any woman I know. It was an excellent read and well worth the long wait I had to get it from the library!