When novelist Clare B. Dunkle's seventeen-year-old daughter, Elena, is diagnosed with anorexia nervosa, Clare's first reaction is one of bewildered disbelief. Elena is a top honors student at her high school in Germany, a regular volunteer at the nearby military hospital, and a beautiful, cosmopolitan girl confident in two cultures and two languages, who never gets into trouble.
But what at first seems like an arbitrary and inexplicable diagnosis quickly escalates into a nightmare. As Clare struggles to make sense of conflicting information from doctors, therapists, and Elena herself, she comes to accept the terrifying truth: Elena does indeed suffer from severe anorexia nervosa, and she may be only weeks away from dying.
What follows is a compelling and heart-wrenching view of a child's mental illness as a parent experiences it: the contradictory and sometimes condescending opinions of experts; the confusing, frustrating, and endless health insurance battles; the cross-country travels for hospital and rehab visits; and most of all, the agony and helplessness of watching a child destroy herself. Underlying everything is a woman's struggle with her identity as a wife, mother, and writer.
But Clare has a unique weapon against the forces tearing her family apart. "When I have a question I can't answer, I write a story." And so she agrees to help Elena document her illness in a memoir. In the process, she turns her own daughter into a character on the printed page.
It may be Elena's only chance at a happy ending.
Brave, beautifully written, and unflinchingly honest, Hope and Other Luxuries is an unforgettable memoir of one family's fight against a deadly disease—and a testament to love in its purest form.