Thursday, April 28, 2016

Book Review: POUND FOR POUND by Shannon Kopp

A terrific read for anyone who has ever struggled with food addiction and anyone who has ever loved a dog! Scroll down for my full review at the bottom of this post.

Pound for Pound
A Story of One Woman's Recovery and the Shelter Dogs Who Loved Her Back to Life
By Shannon Kopp
Published by William Morrow
Hardcover: 288 pages
October 6, 2015; 9780062370228

"The dogs don't judge me or give me a motivational speech. They don't rush me to heal or grow. They sit in my lap and lick my face and make me feel chosen. And sometimes, it hits me hard that I'm doing the exact thing I say I cannot do. Changing."

Pound for Pound is the inspirational tale of one woman's journey back from the brink of self-destruction, and a heartfelt homage to the four-legged heroes who unexpectedly saved her life.

For eight years, Shannon Kopp battled the silent, horrific, and all-too-common disease of bulimia. Stuck in an endless cycle of bingeing and purging, Shannon was overwhelmed by broken promises: to herself, to her family, to her future. Finally, at twenty-four, she got a job working at the San Diego Humane Society and SPCA, where in caring for shelter dogs, she found the inspiration to heal and the courage to forgive herself. With the help of some extraordinary homeless animals -- dogs like Sweet Pea, Big Girl, Abby, Stewie, and countless others -- Shannon realized from her suffering, something beautiful had been born. Compassion.

Shannon's poignant memoir is a story of hope, resilience, and the spiritual healing animals bring to our lives. Pound for Pound vividly reminds us that animals are more than just friends and companions -- they can teach us how to savor the present moment and reclaim our joy. Rich with emotion and inspiration, Pound for Pound is essential reading for animal lovers and everyone who has struggled to change.

Author Bio
Shannon Kopp, author of Pound for Pound, is a writer, eating disorder survivor, and animal welfare advocate. She has worked and volunteered at various animal shelters throughout San Diego and Los Angeles, where shelter dogs helped her to discover a healthier, more joyful way of living. Her mission is to help every shelter dog find a loving home, and to raise awareness about eating disorders and animal welfare issues.

For more information visit her website:

My Review:

This is the type of book that book clubs should read. After finishing it, I’m left with the strong desire to discuss it with other people!

The writing: Overall, it was excellent. I was engaged and curious to find out what would happen next. Toward the end, the writing became a bit disjointed. I found myself needing to exert effort to follow the narrative. Up until that point, it was an easy read.

The language: If you have an aversion to the F-word, consider yourself warned. It’s used in the writing, but not to an extent that made me put the book down or lower the rating because of it. (BTW: seven times on page 227)

The sexual scenes: There are multiple scenes, which made me cringe a bit, not because it was sex, but because it was a girl yearning to be loved and accepted. It broke my heart that she felt sexual acts were the way to find that love and acceptance.

The bulimia: Now, understand, I’ve struggled with weight and healthy eating my entire life. I’ve often thought over the years (and I know this is unhealthy thinking – so don’t lecture me!) that bulimics had the best of both worlds. They could eat whatever they wanted and in any quantity they wanted and then throw it up and still have the size body they wanted. Then society would praise them for how terrific they looked. Meanwhile a compulsive eater, eats, gains weight, and is then ridiculed by society for being fat. It’s completely screwed up. I never became a bulimic because I was afraid it might cause death or serious physical harm. (Yes, I was too scared to give bulimia a try.) Kopp’s story never really makes the reality of bulimia look as bad as I always thought it was. Her story almost made it seem appealing. Kopp merely skimmed over the surface of the emotions attached to the disease and at one point even seemed flippant about the physical consequences. I worry that a teenager reading this book might see bulimia as attractive. Something you can do for a while and then find something more interesting to move on to later. Kopp writes, “I was a good bulimic but not great.” (page 93) ---> This is one of the reasons this book would make an excellent book club choice. This is a great topic for discussion!

The dogs: If you’ve ever experienced the love of a dog, you know the joy, comfort, and devotion they offer. “While we might have outlived her, Sugar had outloved us all.” (page 104) The stories of the shelter dogs and how the process of Kopp loving them and serving them SAVED her … moved me greatly. More than once I found my heart in my throat as the stories of the dogs unfolded.

The addictions in general: Kopp explores a lot of important truths in this book. As a food addict, myself, I often ask myself, “Why did I do that? I know better!” But as Kopp eloquently put it, “Addictive craving bypasses all knowledge of past experience and consequences. It puts you in a truth blackout, and your wisdom and sanity disappear.” (pages 124-125) “Bingeing was the opposite of prettiness and perfection. It was rude, gluttonous, sinful—a giant middle finger to the strict, calorie-conscious rules I abided by during the day.” (page 227)

The images of women: Girls are raised from a very young age to know that the way they look influences the people around them. Why? Why is this done to girls? I find it so frustrating! Kopp writes, “I wish I could tell her to find stable ground, to stay away from anything that told her the size of her body mattered … I wish I could tell her to stay close to the things she loved. Find joy.” (page 5) “I had to write about where obsession lived. Where rituals were born. Where a girl believed that sucking in her stomach made her more beautiful, more vital, more seen in the world. I had to write about where she got those beliefs.” (page 225)

The recovery: One of the most moving pages was when Kopp reacted to a doctor who told her “Fat is not a feeling.” (page 26) Anyone who has ever actually felt fat … knows that it is in fact a feeling. And then later Kopp acknowledges, “The world is not what made me so sick and miserable—it was my way of seeing myself in the world.” (page 148)

Not all memoirs are created equal. This one was very moving and enjoyable. I highly recommend it to everyone (but warn you ahead of time about the F-word and multiple sexual scenes)

Kopp gave a lot of herself in the writing of this book. I hope it helps others find a joyful passion in their lives that enables them to overcome their addictions and love themselves fully.

Kopp said it perfectly at the end, “If I know anything at all, it’s that giving saves lives. Especially the giver’s.” (page 264)

[I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This in no way influenced my review of the book.]

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