“Everything counts.” The opening line of Addition is an appropriate mantra for Grace Vanderburg’s life. Numbers dominate, to the point that the 35-year-old Australian is unable to work. From the time she wakes at precisely 5:55 a.m., Grace’s days are carefully measured. Five minutes to gather herself. Twenty-five paces to the bathroom, followed by 160 strokes of the toothbrush. She selects the day’s outfit from a rotation of 10 shirts and 10 pairs of trousers. Grace even carefully plans the numbers of each grocery purchase. When she mistakenly finds herself at the grocery store cash register with nine bananas instead of 10, Grace rounds out the bunch by plucking a banana from the basket of an attractive man in line behind her.
By measuring the dimensions of her world, Grace forms a place where she feels in control and safe. Creating routines helps her avoid the unexpected. Or, well, she thinks she can avoid it, until she shows up at her preferred cafe at her prescribed time and finds every table occupied. Panic begins to set in—and then the man from the supermarket waves her to his table.
Slowly, Grace’s world shifts. Her life breaks from its prescribed pattern when she agrees to go on a date with Seamus. It’s an acceptable change, Grace tells herself. She can break routine if she wants to—she simply chooses to live by the numbers. But when Grace and Seamus are together, numbers recede to the background. Their relationship changes Grace, challenges Seamus and illustrates how a relationship can bring out both the best and worst in a person.
In her debut novel, Toni Jordan invites readers into Grace’s mental world, making Grace’s thoughts become their own. Jordan paints a sympathetic portrait of a young woman suffering from (and often embracing) obsessive-compulsive disorder, never talking down to her character but offering insight into her thoughts. In the end, readers will be left counting the days until Jordan’s next release.
Carla Jean Whitley lives, writes and carefully minimizes her contact with numbers in Birmingham, Alabama.