Thursday, 25 March 2010


This is a book for the obsessive-compulsive in all of us. There's no obsessive-compulsive in you? Weird. I'm somewhat obsessive, not very compulsive. Or, rather, I'm not clinically compulsive. Not the kind of compulsive that one thinks about when one hears the word 'compulsive'. I don't feel compelled to do things by some sort of bizarre or grandiose fear that the world is going to end of everyone I know is going to die (well, I do occasionally, but that's usually a compulsion to stay in bed). I'm compelled to fidget, constantly, though some people call that hyperactivity. I have some pretty bizarre mental processes that are required for me to do certain things. I like things to be symmetrical (or at least sensibly asymmetrical), in alphabetical order, in the correct colour order, in the order of size. But I don't have rituals. I'm not a hand-washer. And I don't count the way Grace Lisa Vandenburg does.

Sometimes, I'll count things, absent-mindedly (and sometimes very mindfully, like breaths in yoga), but I've never met anyone who counts things the way Grace Lisa Vandenburg does. She taught maths for a while, only she lost her job because she had a breakdown because things weren't just so. So now she lives on disability (the book was written by an Australian and is set there) and counts. And then she meets Seamus Joseph O'Reilly. Actually, she steals his banana (he didn't need it and she only had nine! Really, it wasn't so much stealing as saving the world from a fate worse than death) and they meet after that. Grace likes Seamus, Seamus likes Grace. Grace counts, Seamus thinks Grace would be better off not counting. And here we have a lovely story about what exactly constitutes mental health and who has the right to decide how a person is able to be their best. Also, it's a quirky romance that's well-written.

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