This blog is now retired. My new site is at: Predictably Irrational.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Addition by Toni Jordan

As always, this will be full of spoilers to quoting the very end of the book.

This was a perfect summer read. And when I got to the part that said "On the way home it seemed natural to count my steps from the school gate, down the path, over the footpath, across the road, along the street at the bottom of the hill, across another road, up the hill and then into our yard: 2, 827." I knew I was going to love it.

And I did love it. Although it sort of scared me because I found myself relating too much with this *fictional* character who has obvious psychological OCD issues that are *fictional*. But for the most part, these *fictional* issues are much more severe than any real MILD counting, over-thinking things that I do.

Nonetheless, the story about Grace Lisa Vandenburg is so fun. She counts everything. Obsessively. It's funny. She has a routine. She gets up at a certain time every day. She goes to a certain cafe at a certain time every day. When she gets there, she selects a table, starting clockwise, and will then order a slice of orange cake, which is sprinkled with poppy seeds. She'll count the number of poppy seeds sprinkled on top and that number will be the number of bites it will take her to eat the cake.

One day Grace's number game is off, when at the grocery store, she discovers that her typical buying of things in 10s is thrown off when she is in a long line at the checkout with only 9 bananas. Because her OCD makes her a bit anxious, she's not sure what to do...vs. just getting out of line and getting a 10th banana. She notices that a patron behind her, who is reading the paper and paying no mind, has a lone banana in his basket so she steals his banana to make her shopping, and her obsession, complete.

He, naturally, confronts her banana stealing in the parking lot and after she proclaims that the banana really isn't his but the store's until purchased, they separate until a few days later, when she finds another anxious moment and finds her cafe routine disrupted by being full. Her 'i-stole-his-banana-from-his-basket' 'friend' sees her and waves her to his table, to which she reluctantly joins, and he soon discovers her eccentric eating habit, as she divides her orange cake into X-many slices and eats quickly and leaves...but not after he asks her out on a date.

And this is where we really get to know Grace and her OCD and how it can interfere with her life. Banana man is amazing - and too good to be true - and makes this book a great summer read by giving me butterflies in my tummy. Grace is yet another wonderful character that can't be soon forgotten. Her quirks are endearing, but also demanding and hard to understand how they take control of one's life. These are those things you hear about in OCD people: the 'i have to wash my hands "x" many times', or 'do this x many time'. It's sad and funny and scary and relieving how I can and cannot relate: OMG, I do that BUT I don't HAVE to do that.  But will there be a time when I HAVE to do that???

A great read and I'll add Toni Jordan to my list of authors for good summertime reads. There are many, many profound moments she writes and here are a few of my favorites.

Grace has a close relationship with her niece Hilary, who she calls Larry. Larry is telling Grace about her new best friend and their plans about going to college and sharing a flat, and dealing with her own mother:
"She's great. She's got black hair. When we leave school we're going to college together and we're going to share a flat and do anything we want. Stay up all night if we want. Have Kit Kats for breakfast if we want."
"Sounds like fun. Kit Kats contain three of the five food groups: chocolate, sugar and chocolate."
"Do you think we will? Share a flat I mean?"
"Why not?"
"Mum says I'll have a hundred more best friends before I'm 18."
Helpful. "Your mother doesn't understand. Sometimes you meet someone and your life changes forever."
Love it. At 43, I can still relate to those feelings of angst at that age.

Later, on a date with banana man at Larry's recital, she reflects this, with all her numbers (and over-thinking):
But a demanding job isn't the only reason to be childless. There's overpopulation. Global warming. Think of the environmental impact of disposable diapers - 8,000 diapers per baby and 500 years for each one to decompose, in Australia, a baby is born every 2 minutes, so 262,800 per year, times 8,000 nappies 2.1 x 10 to the 9th power. And that's not the worst bit. Feeding it. Clothing it. Being responsible for another person's life. For their whole existence. Get your head around that. There are a million great reasons not to have children. 
But sitting here at the recital, holding hands with Seamus and watching Larry play the violin, it's easy to forget them all. She's at the back of the stage, and now that she is lined up with her orchestra mates, it's apparent she doesn't look like the rest of the girls. Her hair is messy and still its natural color, a sandy straw. She doesn't wear any eye makeup or lip gloss. She's not grinning at parents in the front row. Her tongue is between her teeth. Every stroke of her bow is deliberate, precise. She's wonderful.
And lastly, the best quote is the last, a gift to Larry:
And all this time I never lecture her. I give her no avice, tell her no analogies or homilies. I compare her with no one. Because there are some thing you must find out for yourself. But if there was just one thing that I could give to this beautiful child - just one thing I could hand her, wrapped in shiny paper and finished with a stiff bow, this is what I would tell her. 
Most people miss their whole lives, you know. Listen, life isn't when you are standing on top of a mountain looking at the sunset. Life isn't waiting at the altar or the moment your child is born or that time you were swimming in deep water and a dolphin came up alongside you. These are fragments. 10 or 12 grains of sand spread throughout your entire existence. These are not life. Life is brushing your teeth or making a sandwich or watching the news or waiting for the bus. Or walking. Every day, thousands of tiny events happen and if you're not watching, if you're not careful, if you don't capture them and make them count, you could miss it. 
You could miss your whole life.

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