Monday, June 27, 2011

Finding Sarah: A True Story of Living with Bulimia by Joanne Jowell

The cover of Finding Sarah

About the Book
‘Society turns a blind eye to people with eating disorders as they are often considered as merely seeking attention. This is extremely ignorant as it goes way beyond that,’ says Finding Sarah’s troubled but captivating protagonist, 26-year-old Sarah Picton.

For more than nine years, Sarah has been purging her food in any place she can find: public toilets, plastic bags, coffee mugs. When she couldn’t satisfy her bulimic addiction, she restricted her diet to the point that she weighed only 41 kilograms, a weight better suited to a girl less than half her age. She has lost teeth and her gag reflex. She has lost her energy and her friends. She has come close to losing her life.

But then she decided to do something about it.

Sarah reveals her story in brutally honest detail to author Joanne Jowell, setting herself on a path of enlightenment for herself, her family and anyone who might hear her story. No holds are barred as Sarah describes the selfishness of the illness, the shame surrounding her condition, and the deceptive ends to which she will go to hide her addiction. Along the way, Joanne meets the players in this story, including Sarah’s mother, friends, ex-boyfriend and psychiatrist. And, of course, there is Sarah herself – cowed but not beaten, searching for herself even as the author does, sharing her life story so that she can reach out to the countless others who suffer in the shadow of addiction.

Reading Finding Sarah: A True Story of Living with Bulimia is like watching brain surgery.  You always wonder, grotesque visions of blood and gore, how it is done but never really get to see it.  This is what reading Finding Sarah felt like for me.  I watched friends and family use the very same tricks; from peas, a ‘marker’ Sarah used to limit her bulimic spells, to popcorn.  Random trips to the bathroom and the deafening sound of the hairdryer drowning out the sounds of retching was my experience of this disease.  

Everyone tip toes around this issue, not fully understanding it or fully grasping what it really means but yet there is always someone you know that suffered from this disease.  Jowell puts Sarah Picton on display – not Sarah herself but her disorder that yanks plump cheeked girls from their youth and pushes them into bathroom stalls with a silent wish “Just one more kilogram”.  Joanne’s interviews with those closest to Sarah help see the deterioration this condition brings with it giving the reader a balanced view of the disease–From Sarah’s brother to her therapist–each talks how Sarah’s fall into these EDs (Eating Disorders) impacted them, Sarah and the relationships between them. 

Sarah’s struggle with bulimia and anorexia is tied to more than just wanting to be thin, a pick-and-mix of psychological disorders such as bipolar, OCD and an addictive personality.  What is the root of all eating disorders?  Was it the death of her father? Her drug addiction? Or was it the need to be thin?  Sarah Picton tells it all in this evocative, gasp-worthy telling of her story of a life that nearly killed her.

Not to be humorous, but I did find Sarah; in a 17 year old Kelly wanting the perfect Matric Dance Dress, a 19 year old Kelly – first year varsity!  I also found her in my thoughts of lunch (I shouldn’t eat that, I should halve that) and in the eyes of most women I meet.  I am sure you know Sarah, or at least your very own version of her? 

“Just 3 more kilos...”
“I won’t eat that”
“I have to fit into that dress”
“He would notice me if I was thinner”
We have all been there?

A topic that seems to be thrown aside as “attention seeking” is fully splayed out for everyone to grasp! Powerful and honest!  This book really needs to be given to every man, woman and girl.
You need to read this book; it will have you talking about EDs with colleagues, family and friends.  Talk about it!

Favourite Quotes:

Because it’s like, ‘Well, fuck you, I can live without it, I’m better than you.’
You look at somebody who’s eating and you think, ‘Oh my God, she’s so weak, she’s disgusting, how could she eat that?’ And so it starts …
 Buy the book here ( or here (
Buy the eBook here (

 - Review by Kelly Ansara


BookGeek said...

This sounds like a very intense book. Your right about the fact this many think of bulimia as a "selfish" thing to do, and I'm glad someone is standing up for what it really it - a condition that needs to be seriously addressed, not ignored. Glad you suggested this!

Sarah Claire Picton said...

Just found this now, thanks so much for the review. I have set up a Twitter account and email too - so if anyone ever wants to talk, I'd be really happy. Maybe to plan free meetings too - so that people who have not been in primary care can attend! Anyway, here's the deets: Twitter: @FindingSarahBook, Email:


Ruffian said...

Hey Sarah, fancy seeing you out here...Was just recommending the book to a friend and found this link too. Poke poke....Talk soon


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