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Beautiful Stranger: A Memoir of an Obsession With Perfection Hardcover – Bargain Price, August 5, 2004
"Children of Blood and Bone"
Tomi Adeyemi conjures a stunning world of dark magic and danger in her West African-inspired fantasy debut. Pre-order today
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About the Author
Hope Donahue grew up in Los Angeles, California, and holds a masters degree in journalism from the University of California at Berkeley. She was a finalist in Glimmer Trains short story competition, and her short fiction has also appeared in Other Voices. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Hope Hathaway Donahue is the only child born to a couple of very privileged narcissists. Mr. Hathaway is distant and inept as a father. His big setback was not having the stomach to follow in his illustrious surgeon father's footsteps. So, he becomes a very successful international banker and a hypochondriac. Mrs. Hathaway is a lady of leisure who insulates herself within her own privileged microcosm, preferring to shut out all of life's unpleasant realities. She tries to turn beautiful daughter, Hope, into her living Barbie doll. In order to one up her rich friends she spends lavishly on gowns for coming out parties for Hope. The relationship takes a more sinister turn, however, when Hope becomes a teenager and Mrs. Hathaway's looks begin to fade. She begins buying Hope string bikinis. Since most mothers prefer modesty for their daughters perhaps this is Mrs. Hathaway's vicarious attempt to retain her nubility. It backfires when Mrs. Hathaway begins to see Hope as her rival rather than her ideal projection of herself. She then accuses Hope of being a temptress and Mr. Hathaway of having an affair with their daughter.
One day Hope comes home from French class and her mother, lounging by their pool, admonishes her not to burden herself with too much learning. In The Great Gatsby, Daisy, the fabulously rich narcissistic protagonist sums it up after the birth of her daughter: "I hope she'll be a fool, a beautiful little fool. That's the best thing for a girl to be." Primed to be a "beautiful fool" Hope becomes obsessed with physical perfection. She thus embarks on a long series of painful, expensive, and totally unnecessary cosmetic surgery operations.
Hope gets a master's degree in journalism from UC Berkeley. There is no mention of her trying to seek employment in her field, or having any hobbies or interests beyond her growing obsession with physical perfection. She develops a fear of and disdain for the world and like her mother isolates herself. Her parents support her for a while so she's not forced to get a job. She rents an apartment with several other girls, but doesn't interact with them and they dislike her. As they go off to work in the mornings she hides in her room and bemoans the sounds of the 9-5 rat race ever so thankful that she hasn't been drafted into it. She then rummages through their things, perhaps trying to partake in the outside world from a safe distance.
Hope's parents eventually stop paying for her plastic surgery. It doesn't occur to Mrs. Hathaway that her daughter's plastic surgery is a desperate cry for help or that she is staring at the consequences of decades of grooming her daughter to be the perfect physical specimen. She packs up her bags and goes to stay at hotel so she won't have to look at Hope's bandaged face. Her father has the same reaction, but is marginally more helpful. He remains horrified and distantly silent, but fixes some meals for Hope.
A reader from a deprived background might feel contempt for Hope, but is this situation so different from the 3rd generation welfare mother or the girl with a violent alcoholic father who grows up and marries one? All throughout this narrative Hope searches for love and acceptance. Her insecurities are often mercilessly exploited, most egregiously by a sleazeball cosmetic surgeon identified as Dr. S. What is most conspicuously absent, besides any parental warmth or guidance, is the mention of any close friends. Hope recounts her lonely childhood playing in her grandparents' large house and being treated very distantly by them. Hope gets into a "relationship" with Hank, who is secretly married and comes over to occasionally have sex with and abuse her. This lasts until he tries to rape one of her roommates and they kick Hope out. Faced with having to pay for her breast implants and the drudgery of a 9-5 job Hope then has a brush with the porn industry. Luckily she manages to walk away before becoming immortalized.
Hope eventually gets a job as a receptionist where she meets the love of her life. They marry and have four children. Aside from the surgery Hope has to have to repair the damage caused by Dr. S (his procedures were questionable), this is perhaps as close to a happy ending as real life gets.
Overall, the book is very interesting--it's often hard to believe that all these things happened to one person in 27 years, and harder still to believe that she managed to get her life back on track in an even shorter period of time. The confessional writing style creates intimacy and discomfort--both of which are necessary to understanding the author and her illness. While the book could have been even more interesting with before and after photos, it remains a compelling memoir.
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 family of
origin's connection to her body dysmorphic disorder, ties it
to obsessive compulsive disorder and depression, but these
explanations seem too glib. Her surface explanations appear
to mirror her surface re-do's through surgery.
Her therapy is assigned less than 10 pages of the book and
then all is happily ever after once she is 'cured' and leaves
the world of self-loathing and sado-masochism, living happily
ever after. Could this be phony balogna? Or......could it be
a romanticized account by someone not yet in true recovery? I
think the latter is more likely.