CM . . .
. Volume XX Number 2. . . .September 13, 2013
Objects in Mirror.
Markham, ON: Red Deer Press, 2013.
220 pp., trade pbk., $12.95.
Eating disorders in adolescence-Juvenile fiction.
Grades 7-10 / Ages 12-15.
Review by Kim Aippersbach.
Once I have them all clipped in to the front of their stalls, with ropes long enough to let them lie down, but not long enough to trip on, I trail the hose down the aisle and trickle fresh, cool water into their buckets.
Now what? I’d like to feed them all until they burst, repair all the damage done over weeks and months with high-speed, high-calorie feeding. It wouldn’t work, though. They need to come back slowly, carefully. There’s no quick and easy fix to the condition they’re in.
Objects in Mirror is the story of Grace, an anorexic girl with a gift for working with horses. She gets a job at Stonegate stables for the summer, and this gives her the opportunity to get to know Matt. “One year ahead of me at school and light years ahead of me with horses. Matt the horse god.” Part of Grace and Matt’s job involves rehabilitating six malnourished horses. Grace tries not to see the parallels between the horses’ condition and her own.
My left fingers fly to encircle my right wrist, seeking the reassuring sharpness of my wrist bones poking just under the skin. Their hardness brings to mind the knobs of Whinny’s hipbones, jutting from her haunches the way no horse’s hipbones ever should.
I shiver, drop my hands into my lap, then tuck them under my thighs.
Grace increases in confidence as her skill at training horses is acknowledged, and she develops a friendship with Matt, but she continues to obsess about losing weight. Then her therapist suggests that she should quit riding, and her absent father says he has arranged for her to go to a rehab boarding school in England. Stressed about the possibility of losing everything she cares about, Grace stops eating entirely. Matt witnesses her fainting while working with Whinny and gives her an ultimatum:
“You’re drinking the rest of this.” Matt pushes the orange juice back under my face. “And then you’re eating a power bar.” He pulls one from his back pocket.
“What if I say no?”
Then I’m driving you home,” he says simply. “And I’m going to talk to your stepmom and Drew and whoever else it takes, and I’m going to tell them it’s not safe for you to work around horses when you might pass out any minute.”
Then Matt suggests that, if she does start eating, she’ll be able to jump her favourite horse.
Bingo. Matt’s just ratcheted things up a notch and he knows it. He might not know why; probably doesn’t get that the only thing that makes me feel lighter, stronger, more adrenaline-filled than losing another pound, is flinging Sprite over a course of jumps, but he’s seen me jump. Knows how much I love it.
Matt’s handing me exactly what I want on a silver platter, and all I’ve got to do is eat the Caramel Peanut Fusion power bar he’s holding out to me. Shit.
Matt starts bringing yogurt and bagels for Grace to eat at lunch, and she slowly comes to see eating as a victory rather than a failure. She throws the scale in the garbage, and when she goes on a date with Matt, she has a moment when she can look at herself in the mirror and see herself as attractive. It helps that Matt stuck a note on her mirror saying, “Objects in mirror are much more beautiful than they appear.” In the end, Grace gets a new therapist, and, if she starts to gain weight, her father won’t insist on the boarding school.
Objects in Mirror is well-written and compelling. Robins deals knowledgeably and sensitively with both horses and eating disorders. Grace’s first-person voice is convincing, helping readers understand anorexia from the inside. She is a likeable character with believable flaws and strengths, not just a representative anorexic girl. Her journal entries are particularly effective. The narrative never feels didactic, and Grace’s recovery is neither facile nor pat.
Horse lovers will get their fill of everything to do with horse care, training and riding. The setting is vividly rendered, and the horses are each individual characters. The human characters are generally well rounded, though Matt might be a bit too perfect. The Matt-Grace romance is nicely developed, however, and Robins writes a great kissing scene.
Objects in Mirror will appeal to anyone who likes horses and anyone who likes realistic drama with a bit of romance. It’s an excellent choice for a novel about anorexia, because it’s not a story about an issue; it’s just a great story.
Kim Aippersbach is a free-lance editor and writer and mother of three in Vancouver, BC.
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