Everything in Grace’s life is defined, clear, in its place. She has routines for each season, each month, each week and each day of the week, from her wardrobe to how she washes. She rises at the same time every day, and every day has a routine. On Saturdays she goes shopping after breakfast. On one Saturday everything goes as usual – two packs of chicken thighs, a carton of eggs (with two removed, to make ten):
100 beans (that’s a pain), 10 carrots, 10 baby potatoes, 10 small onions, 100g of salad mix…and 9 bananas.Grace doesn’t want to leave her spot in the line – after all, she was there first – but she can’t possibly buy only nine bananas. When she spots a lone banana in the basket of the distracted shopper behind her, Grace diverts his attention and pops the banana in her own pile. And just like that, Grace’s ordered world begins to fray.
How the fuck did I get 9 bananas in my trolley?
This is impossible. I look behind the eggs, behind the bag of beans. This is not possible.
This is a fascinating novel about the power of obsessive-compulsive disease, but it’s more than that. Grace is intelligent, quirky, quick-witted, imaginative, and disabled. When Seamus, the original possessor of that tenth banana, lands in her life all that begins to change. Seamus is an ideal leading man – sensitive, kind, handsome, potent, intelligent – and after some initial bumps they get together, and Grace stops counting.
I was at first dismayed by the idea that Grace’s condition could so easily be cured by the presence of a man in her life, though distracted enough by the romance that I kept reading. But then things become more complicated, and Grace’s numbers are not so easily ousted. The risk of spoilers is too high to say any more about this aspect of Addition, except that is Grace’s struggles with the therapy designed to free her mark the most interesting twist in a well-written and absorbing novel. And, as Grace points out, side effects are only minor if they’re happening to someone else’s sense of self.
Intertwined into the main plot are Grace’s relationships with her female relatives (mother, sister and niece), the back story of why she’s on extended sick leave form her job as a teacher, and the disclosure of the pivotal event that began Grace counting. This last element could, in less skilful hands, have been simplistic but Jordan imbues it with full weight and depth.
Addition’s popularity is reflected by the slip the library inserted when I borrowed it - this is the first book I’ve borrowed that flags it as a popular item that they’d like me to read first and return promptly – to give you an idea of how rare this is, over 80% of my reviews are on library books.
As a disorganised person who would like more order in my life, and (though not at all to a Gracian degree) a counter, I was instantly captured by the routine of Grace’s life. I mentioned to a friend that Addition made me feel like this and she (a type A who I think is a little too tightly structured and wound herself) was amazed that I would want to be more (her emphasis) OCD, which I thought was a little uncalled for. For me the book certainly made me reflect on how slender the line is between eccentricity and insanity, how culturally mediated that line is, and how we view the quirks of those around us. As Grace points out, irrationality about numbers (and in general) is everywhere –
At Melbourne international airport there is no gate 13. The gates go up to 11 in odd numbers and to 14 in evens. They say I’m the fucking nutcase but everyone has it. The fear of 13 is deep inside people, in that part of them that’s more animal than human. Imagine the announcement: ‘Attention please. Flight number 911 to New York is now boarding at gate 13.’ How many people would get on that plane? Rational people. Educated people. The fear of the number thirteen is called triskaidekaphobia. Almost everyone has it. They work, they have friends, partners. No one tries to make them take drugs.
My life, by the way, is more notable for its chaotic disorganisation than order. – Alex