…life would be different if I didn’t count, I know that. But without it the world would be too big and too changeable. An endless void. I’d be lost all the time. I’d be overwhelmed. (22)
Toni Jordan’s “Addition” tells the story of Grace Vandenburg, a Melbourne woman whose life is controlled by her compulsive need to count everything from how many steps she takes and how long it takes to brush her teeth, to how many bites she must eat her food in, each aspect of her life is counted and regimented by numbers. Through counting, Grace creates order in an otherwise chaotic world, even when it impacts on other aspects of her life, such as falling in love.
As in many debut novels, the story is centred around the main character’s development: why Grace counts, how it challenges her and how it holds her together. The love interest, Seamus, acts mostly as a catalyst for change, challenging Grace’s perception of being content with the ways in which counting regiments her life, and also an opportunity for Jordan to add in some raunchy scenes. Her family are also present as secondary characters whose main function is to reveal Grace’s character, in particular to portray Grace’s ideas of normal and different, an integral part of how she defines her identity; that is, that counting makes her special and without it she would be normal. Throughout the book Grace see-saws in between feeling trapped in her counting and being comforted by defining her identity as a woman who counts.
Although it was easy to read and generally enjoyable, I found “Addition” a little emotionally distant. Whilst Grace is constantly anxious, her emotion never came off the page, perhaps in part because of her obsessive counting, used to keep her anxieties at bay, but this also stopped me from connecting with the character as much as I would’ve liked to. In the end, I found “Addition” to be a witty love story with a quirk, but which lacked the depth I had hoped for.