A harmless obsession (?)

We all have our obsessions, our quirky little habits. I’m a list-tragic, I can’t do without them. For other people, it’s keeping their kitchen spotless, or triple-checking that the front door is locked before going out. These are the things that compel us and to at least a small degree dictate our day-to-day behaviour.

For Grace Lisa Vandenburg, her obsession is counting. She lives her life counting, measuring, and timing everything. For her, counting is both a compulsion and a means of controlling her environment. In many ways her obsession both constrains her and liberates her.

, by Toni Jordan¬†is Grace’s story. It is a matter-of-fact exploration of someone who lives their life a little bit differently, a chance for us to get to know a bit more about an obsessive-compulsive and exceptionally intelligent individual. Grace is bright, and very funny, and through a series of chance meetings, in love. It is this romance; impulsive, passionate and quite out of character, that calls into question how Grace has come to live her life:


“…I looked in your fridge last Sunday morning. What’s with all the plastic bags full of stuff? I’ve never seen a fridge where nothing – I mean nothing – is in its original packaging. A fridge full of bags of onions and beans and God knows what else all in little individual zip-lock bags. Yoghurt, even. And all your drinking glasses have lines drawn across them, like glasses in wine bars.”

Seamus Joseph O’Reilly (a 19, like Grace) is attracted to Grace, but perturbed. He’s not quite sure how big of a problem this counting is, but he seems to be intuitively aware of a sadness in Grace. Predictably, Seamus is compelled to try and ‘help’ Grace:

“‘There’s a whole world out there, you know Grace. A school recital really shouldn’t be the best thing you’ve done in ages.’

‘It’s complicated.’

‘It’s not really. Prisoners in minimum security have more freedom than you. You deserve more from life that this.'”

His intentions are pure, his heart in the right place, but as you might imagine, not all goes quite to plan. Rarely are these things that simple.

This novel is quite beautiful, it’s compelling and pleasant to read. It is witty, but earnest, treating Grace’s uniqueness with the seriousness and respect that it deserves. Despite the humour used throughout the story, Grace is not trivialised. Likewise, Grace’s relationships – with her mother, her sister, her niece and Seamus are well developed and evolve throughout the novel. Interestingly, Grace is not the only one to change, far from it.

Jordan makes many local references, using familiar Melbourne suburbs and recognisable streets. Sometimes I feel a little culture-cringe when writers do this, but I didn’t get this sense at all whilst reading Addition. Rather, it really endeared me to the story and the characters. I could easily imagine Grace doing yard-duty at our local primary school, and having her morning orange cake at a coffee shop just up the road from me.

I found this novel a really quick read, it is straight forward in its language and narrative, without being flipant. The romance is lovely, and Grace is really likeable. I would recommend this as a great week-end read…best served with tea and a little peace and quiet.

Addition is Toni Jordan’s debut novel, released in 2008. She has since published Fall Girl, which is now on my reading list. You can find out more about Toni at her website here…

If you’re interested in reading this novel, pop into Kidna Books: 422 Hampton Street, Hampton or give Linda a call on 9521 8272, she’ll be able to fix you up with a copy.