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Beautiful Stranger: A Memoir of an Obsession with Perfection
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Beautiful Stranger: A Memoir of an Obsession with Perfection

3.15  ·  Rating details ·  459 Ratings  ·  66 Reviews
Hope Donahue seemed to have it all: beauty, wealth, social status. She was an only child who grew up with the best private schools, debutante balls, and a home in Hancock Park, Los Angeles's old-money enclave. But beneath the family's façade of "keeping up appearances," Hope hid a host of ugly truths, including a mother increasingly jealous of her daughter's good looks, an ...more
273 pages
Published 2004 by Vision
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Olivia Parsons
May 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
Many people said they disliked this book because they could not relate to the author who they thought was just a spoiled rich girl who had everything handed to her. But--I disagree. Yes, Hope was rich and living in a materialistic family, her mother especially being superficial. But she was raised this way, and the fact that she was handed everything only goes to show how money and beauty will never truly give you real happiness. I loved this book, I loved the truthfulness of Hope's words and fe ...more
Glenda Stansell
Feb 20, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ok I know some people did not like this book. But it's not just about plastic surgery, it's about obsession and how it dominates the mind and sques the perception of ourselves. It is about a woman who grows up privileged in a family of obsessive people. She lives a large part of her life looking for perfection in order to seek approval. Mostly, she needs her own approval and never gets it.

It's a good book for anyone who fights their own demons every day and for those who don't understand it
Jan 18, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This is the story of Hope Donahue a daughter of a wealthy family and this is the story of what it was like to grow up not feeling good about yourself while living in an area where looks are important.
I read this book really quickly but looking back there was alot going on but Hope almost seemed detached from alot of it.
Surgery and bad guys and wanting approval and to be loved come across the most in this book of going from one disaster to another .Although there was alot of personal details in
Jan 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Hope becomes so strong from her former, obsessive, weak self at the end of the book that it is amazing to see her transformation, her journey. We get to see her step away from her need for perfection which is motivated by fear for the future and what seems to be a dependent personality. Her mother pushed her to be a star child, applauding her for her looks. As an adult, Hope seeks to please SO much that she is willing to undergo unnecessary surgery to try to win the favors of her plastic surgeon ...more
Leila Summers
Apr 09, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir
This book is not easy to review, nor was it easy to read. That's not to say it's not well written or interesting, it definitely is! The book presents some shocking realities regarding the LA cosmetic surgery industry as well as mental illness. The author, Hope, is brutally honest and I commend her for this. She tells us her deepest, darkest thoughts, which are not endearing at all, yet she is still brave enough to voice them. The story is not really about the extremes that the author will go to ...more
Nov 30, 2009 rated it it was ok
This one was ok. Definitely not great. It had moments where the author really seemed to open up about the obsessive compulsive thoughts and tendencies that drove her to so much plastic surgery. But much of the book just seemed like a spoiled brat who didn't really have to work and she could indulge her pity party through self-destructive behavior.

In fact, the most insightful and interesting part of the book was the last few pages in the Epilogue.

Also, the copy of the book I read had three pict
Aug 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This book is quite depressing and reminded me why I dislike plastic surgery so much. It's ok if you had a car accident or so, but why change a perfectly healthy body and risk all the complications if you don't need to?! We all have imperfections, that's what makes us us. But we're constantly bombared with photoshopped images and so on, trying to convince us we are abnormal and need to fix that.


At the end of the book she wrote that her illness has nothing to
Bonnie Brody
Mar 07, 2012 rated it it was ok
This book is about a woman who has a series of plastic sur-
geries, one after the other. Whenever anything is wrong
with her life she attempts to fix it with an operation. She
finds her first doctor through an advertisement in the back
of a free weekly magazine. For a self-described smart girl,
she does some very stupid things. Her obsession with herself
make her unlikable and very lonely.

The author appears to have a fixation on plastic surgeries as
a way to solve all her problems. She examines her fam
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is a memoir by a woman who by all accounts, had everything. She came from a wealthy family, never needed anything, although her parents were definitely far from normal and her mom could have benefited from therapy. The author fell into the world of plastic surgery and became addicted, partially because of her self-loathing and her quest for perfection and partially because of the "plastic surgeon" she chose who actually was not board certified. This book is interesting and I would classify ...more
Jan 28, 2008 rated it it was ok
Reading this book after Mutant Message Down Under was extrememly depressing for me. Where MMDU made me analyze myself and my life, it left me feeling hopeful and uplifted. Reading this was heart-breaking and slightly disturbing. While I appreciate the message she is trying to share, it feels a little too raw for my taste.

From a writing-style perspective, it feels like it jumps around too much for the first two-thirds of the book. It became very confusing trying to keep the timeline straight.

Jul 24, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It took me a long time to get through this...not sure if it was because it bored me or I had better things to do. Guess I never really felt attached to Donahue so I thus didn't care what she did to herself...the issues that led to her decisions to have plastic surgery are what were more interesting to me and I wish she would've talked more about those than she did. All that crazy within her family would've been a great story. It amazed me that she went to a plastic surgeon who wasn't board certi ...more
Dec 03, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: memoirs
"Wanting fills up the emptiness inside you as much or even more than actually having something. Wanting is hope. Having is disappointment."

The author has some background in writing, so the writing isn't terrible. I like the above quote. However, I didn't particularly like this book. I was excited by the premise but found the author to be fairly unlikeable, from the way she described torturing her bird to treating her roommates horribly, and she conveys almost no remorse for anything. I did empha
I could relate to least on the side of beauty related compulsions. It is very hard to find a memoir from a person I can relate to and one that is so well written.

Hope's story is realistic. I think her story is rare in the sense that SHE ACTUALLY ADMITTED IT. She admitted that she wasn't cured and still struggles with her compulsions. With mental illness a person can go to extremes to cope with the cognitions and compulsions, no matter how smart the person is.

I will try to remember her
Alvi Harahap
Jul 05, 2011 rated it liked it
Here is my fave part of the book. "The young, beautiful models in fashion magazines do not represent the norm. In fact, these freakishly beautiful women make up less than one percent of the population. Their looks are the result of a genetic gift. And yet, they are the standard against which we are told to measure ourselves. The magazines tell us that we, too, can be as lovely and desirable as they are if only we have the right beauty regimen, exercise program, or plastic surgery. And despite th ...more
Sam Manning
Jun 06, 2014 rated it liked it
It is absolutely terrifying how one's own mind can set fire to their entire being. How it can rip every ounce of joy right out from under them. This surpassed pure vanity and provoked an obsession beyond any reasonable level of endurance. It was an exhausting and inspiring read, although there were times her thoughts and actions seemed incomprehensible. I suppose this comes with the territory of a (however long or short term) mental illness. But then, all of a sudden, she was healed. Meee thinks ...more
Sep 08, 2008 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: Someone who'd like to feel superior to people they think are too vain
Another crap memoir. She had a crazy mother and family and, unsurprisingly, grew up to have a lot of plastic surgery. When she started posing nude to pay for more, she knew she had a problem. I quit reading before that point.

Helpfully, the book cover has photos of her before, during, and after her surgeries (I mean after she had her implants taken out, etc.). She's an ordinary pretty girl in all of them. Now if Joyce Wildenstein wrote a book about what possessed her to have all her plastic surge
Nov 02, 2012 rated it did not like it
I found this book to be mediocre. I finished it because I do not like to abandon a book before I finish it but I found the main character to be dreadfully meek and indecisive. It was furstrating and annoying how she never stood up to anyone, even herself. Just when I thought she was going to let someone have it, she backed out and cowered inside herself. I'm glad I read to the end because I understand her a little more now but I was still annoyed and frustrated by her inability to speak her mind ...more
Jun 16, 2013 rated it did not like it
I really tried to empathize with the author, but her struggles just came across as pathetic. I've noticed the phrase "poor little rich girl" in a handful of reviews and I wholeheartedly agree. I couldn't even finish this book. The timeline is extremely jumbled although she remains in the present tense throughout the entire book. If it weren't for her age in the book jacket I would be completely in the dark about when the events written about have taken place. This book is about 200 pages too lon ...more
Jun 10, 2008 rated it liked it
I am not sure why I keep picking up these books about plastic surgery. Hmm, well at least this one was nonfiction. There were some things that really bothered me about this book. One was that some of the parts were repeated. The other was that all of a sudden the book was over and all these revelations (that sounded more interesting than most of the book) were proclaimed. Not anything to rush out for...
Sep 06, 2008 rated it it was ok
A typical screwed-up-childhood memoir. Interesting enough, light enough to breeze through. Doesn't live up to the jacket promise that this is the story of a plastic surgery addict -- she's no Jocelyn Wildenstein. But she's pretty messed up and so is her family, especially Mom. Read it to feel better about yourself, to feel angry at a girl who has everything but isn't satisfied or to pass time on the beach.
Nicole Alison
Jul 17, 2013 rated it liked it
This was a pretty quick read. I finished it in 4 days. It really gave me perspective on what life would be like to long for perfection. The author did a great job expressing the hurt and emotion of this sad obsession. I would recommend this book to anyone who has felt the need to have plastic surgery, felt the emotions of needed to look perfect or has been affected by this disease in one way or another.
Mar 05, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I teach English and guide students in analyzing literature all day long. I love that, but this book is not that, and that's why I enjoyed it. It deals with heavy and important issues, but does so in a light, fresh, and entertaining way. I would file this under a "beach read," but a good one. One I looked forward to picking up each day. I very much enjoyed it and felt entertained as well as educated on these topics (plastic surgery, anxiety, OCD, etc.) with each read.
Aug 21, 2009 rated it did not like it
It is a disconcerting story, the narrative bounces around constantly and uses the present tense to describe the past (in such a way as to keep me off-balance anyway.) I found it depressing (and far too smutty to continue reading, but I was deluded that there had to be a better conclusion) and the rise at the end was not enough to maintain the dark feelings.
Jul 07, 2008 rated it liked it
Not particularly awesome. I just felt myself pissed off at her more than much else. I guess she truly had some type of psychological disorder. Okay, I'll give her that. But she led a life of privilege and had so many more choices than any of us ever have. I guess a golden life isn't always what the have nots think it is.
Michelle Noelle
Apr 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed this book for what it truly was, which is all about the obsession of plastic surgery. I'll never fully understand her compulsion to always be altering herself, but it was eye opening to read about what she's done. I think she's trying to mask some sort of hurt and pain and this is the only way she knows how.
Aug 28, 2008 rated it it was ok
I finished the book, but wasn't "wowed" by it. It felt like I still wasn't getting the "real" Hope, but a glossy, superficial version. She openly describes her obsessions, compulsions, her multiple plastic surgeries and the dynamics behind them, but it just doesn't connect on a visceral, emotional level. It feels stilted and plastic. It's an interesting memoir, but not memorable.
Jul 23, 2009 rated it did not like it
I didn't feel sorry for her. I had a hard time relating to a girl who had everything from money, an education and amazing looks who was a wreck on the inside. There are people in the world who are in far worse situations. I just didn't relate or feel sympathetic. In fact, I can't believe I even gave it the time to finish it.
Candrayu Sotyaningtyas
Sep 02, 2007 rated it did not like it
huh, jadi merinding baca buku ini ! sumpah, saya ga bakalan operasi payudara, atau apapun di tubuh saya !
krn ini kisah sebenarnya, jadi saya ga tau hrs nge-rate apa... penulisnya, oleh ahli terapinya, diduga punya penyakit Obsessive compulsive disorder / OCD. keterangan lengkap, silakan cari sendiri, hihii ...
drpd itunya disobek2, hiii !!, mending beli kozui breast up aja kalee ...
Oct 19, 2008 rated it it was ok
The book does give some insight into why a girl who appears to have it all would be so obsessed with changing her physical appearance. It's definitely not a fun read which is probably why I skimmed through a lot of it.
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“I used to be terrified of my own weakness; if acknowledged it, I thought I would be overwhelmed by it. But I am stronger and braver than that. I am not so easily broken. I am strong enough to realize that it is alright to be fragile, to be less than perfect. Staying connected to that vulnerability, ironically, gives me strength.” 1 likes
“It's about more than just being beautiful. It's about having all of these uncomfortable feelings inside you and not knowing how to express them or deal with them.” 1 likes
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