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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

'Addition' by Toni Jordan

From the BLURB:

Grace Lisa Vandenburg counts. The letters in her name (19). The steps she takes every morning to the local café (920); the number of poppy seeds on her slice of orange cake, which dictates the number of bites she’ll take to finish it. Grace counts everything, because numbers hold the world together. And she needs to keep an eye on how they’re doing.

Seamus Joseph O'Reilly (also a 19, with the sexiest hands Grace has ever seen) thinks she might be better off without the counting. If she could hold down a job, say. Or open her kitchen cupboards without conductng an inventory, or make a sandwich containing an unknown number of sprouts.

Grace’s problem is that Seamus doesn’t count. Her other problem is…he does.

‘Addition’ is a fabulous debut novel. Grace is witty, flirtatious and headstrong. She’s not a bit sentimental but even so, she may be about to lose track of the number of ways she can fall in love.

‘Addition’ was Australian author Toni Jordan’s 2008 debut novel. It is both a romantic comedy and heartfelt tale of mental health and individuality.

I have owned but not read this book since 2008, and have known of its brilliance for that long too. This is partly because Toni Jordan attended the same RMIT writing and editing course as I did (she graduated a few years before I attended though) and all my lecturers raved about her and the breakout success of ‘Addition’ – a few of my lecturers are even thanked in the acknowledgments.

And yet – 2017 is the year of Toni Jordan for me (or, well – technically 2016 was but I couldn’t remember my Christmas read of ‘Our Tiny Useless Hearts’ so … nevermind!) 2017 is the year of Toni Jordan for me. I think I’m going to read all of her books as a treat to myself, and after this – ‘Fall Girl’ will be next!

‘Addition’ is about 35-year-old obsessive-compulsive counter Grace, who is on leave from her teaching job because her counting compulsion came to the attention of parents (“they wanted me teaching their children, not counting them,” she explains at one point). Grace is high-functioning in her compulsion, so long as she sticks to routines and keeps her life patterned by numbers her world will keep ticking along … number of steps to the café, poppy seeds in a slice of orange cake, 10 bananas bought from the supermarket. Her one true love is similarly tortured-by-numbers inventor Nikola Tesla, whose photo is framed and sits by her bedside.

Then Grace steals Seamus’ banana. This is not a euphemism. She swipes it from his grocery basket while waiting in line at the supermarket – to complete her perfect 10. Over the next few days, Grace’s carefully ordered patterns seem to keep leading her back to Seamus … and the two eventually embark on a relationship (Grace’s first in three years).

What follows is both an utterly sexy and tender romance, and a heartbreaking exploration of mental health that questions conformity and normality in the most respectful and humorous ways.

And let’s make something 100% clear – this is a romance (to me, at least – Bookthingo thought differently and that’s okay). But to me – it’s also a *hot* romance. I am coming to quickly admire Toni Jordan’s sweetly sensual stories which beautifully uphold the one true romance rule for me – that is, that our female protagonist has to stand a little taller by the end of the novel. And on her own two feet, with a companion who encourages her autonomy but wishes to be apart of her journey. If I have any complaints about the book, it’s that I would have liked a little bit more – and especially scenes of Grace meeting Seamus’s family.

I am loving my journey through Toni Jordan’s backlist, and I’m not even a little sorry that it’s taken me this long to finally get around to reading her … because these are just the books I needed *right now*. To get me out of a few reading slumps, and to be companionable friends when world events start squeezing in. I’m not sorry that I’ve taken a while to join the Toni Jordan fan-club, I’m just happy that I found my way eventually.



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