Saturday, January 8, 2011

Review - Unbearable Lightness by Portia de Rossi

Unbearable Lightness : A Story of Loss and Gain by Portia de Rossi
published 11/10
272 pages

Synopsis from publisher:

Portia de Rossi weighed only 82 pounds when she collapsed on the set of the Hollywood film in which she was playing her first leading role. This should have been the culmination of all her years of hard work--first as a child model in Australia, then as a cast member of one of the hottest shows on American television. On the outside she was thin and blond, glamorous and successful. On the inside, she was literally dying.

In this searing, unflinchingly honest book, Portia de Rossi captures the complex emotional truth of what it is like when food, weight, and body image take priority over every other human impulse or action. She recounts the elaborate rituals around eating that came to dominate hours of every day, from keeping her daily calorie intake below 300 to eating precisely measured amounts of food out of specific bowls and only with certain utensils. When this wasn't enough, she resorted to purging and compulsive physical exercise, driving her body and spirit to the breaking point.

My thoughts:

Body image is an issue that just about every woman is conscious of. I'm not sure there is a woman alive who hasn't struggled, at one time or another, with feelings of dissatisfaction and insecurity about they way they look. Most of us, however, don't work in an industry where body image is, literally, everything.

This is the first time I've read a memoir that truly gets inside the thought process of a person struggling with an eating disorder. It was both fascinating and horrifying to read the justification and rationalization de Rossi went through as she ate less and less, and shrunk more and more. When, at 82 pounds, she says she can't be anorexic because she isn't skinny enough, it is nearly unbelievable - and yet, you know she believes every word.

de Rossi isn't a writer, she's an actress, and yet she wrote this memoir herself, baring her soul and her demons to the public for better or worse. I was completely engrossed from the first page. It may not be the most elegant writing, but it is true and strong, and the story is compelling.

This is a story about learning to find acceptance - to be strong enough to know that you are enough, just the way you are. I have a daughter now, who will someday need to learn these lessons on her own. I hope she will read this book, and maybe find herself just a little bit closer to accepting herself thanks to de Rossi's honesty and courage.

Finished: 1/6/11
Source: review copy from the publisher - thank you!
MPAA rating: PG-13 for discussions of body, self-abusive behavior, and sexuality
My rating: 8/10


Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks said...

The memoir probably is more affective since de Rossi did write in her own voice (not using a ghost writer). wow, I cringe just thinking about 82 pounds; and hope she truly accepts herself now.

bermudaonion said...

Wow, she's so brave to reveal herself like that. This sounds like an amazing story.

Anonymous said...

love your new design, and can't wait to borrow this book! :)

crystal said...

Im reading this right now and absolutely love it! I really appreciate when people write from their true emotions rather than what they "should" say. I think she does a beautiful job of describing her struggles with eating disorders, while still portraying the true emotional problems that were fueling it.
Thanks for the review, Im glad people are reading this even though its a tough one to read!

Beth F said...

A very important topic and personal stories about eating disorders are not necessarily going to come from professional authors. I'll have to see if my library has this one.

Zibilee said...

This book sounds scary but also fascinating. I can't imagine being so obsessed with body image that you would do this to yourself, but I also know that this is a problem that is all too real for some people. I was glad to see your review of this book, because this is the first one I have come across. It sounds like it was an intense and interesting read. Wonderful review!

MissMeliss said...

I like biographies, and even celebrity biographies (from time to time) but while this sounds like an interesting read, I don't think it's for me.

Your review of it was wonderful, however.

Alyce said...

I've really been wanting to read this one.

lovey said...

I read a preview of this, and it was very compelling. Your review is the confirmation I need to purchase the entire book.

Elizabeth said...

Dawn - It sounds like she truly does. It was an incredible story.

Bermuda - she is very brave. It's a great story.

C - thanks!

Crystal - it IS tough, but so valuable. I hope it gets a wide readership.

Beth - I hope you can find it.

Heather - I'm hoping it gets wider coverage, because I think it could be important in a lot of ways.

MissMeliss - it's not for everyone. A very intense and emotional read.

Alyce - you should get it!

lovey - I hope you do!

jehara said...

I have been wanting to read this since I read her excerpt in Marie Claire, I believe it was. I can't imagine living with the kind of pressure being in the public eye brings. This story is also a great reminder that you never really know what is going on inside of another person, no matter how beautiful and together they may seem.