Wrapping a novel around an obsessive compulsive disorder sounds like a recipe for disaster. But in the hands of Toni Jordan it is more of an upper - with plenty of echoes for the relatively sane.
Who hasn't found themselves counting the number of cows in a paddock or birds on a powerline?
On the other hand, would you stoop to counting poppy seeds on a piece of cake? This is Jordan's first book and she pulls it off with aplomb.
The pace is fast and funny, only stumbling occasionally when her heroine, Grace, gets so obsessed by the numbers I lost interest for a couple of paragraphs.
But then the storyline takes over again and away you go, tracing the story of a girl dominated by everything from the number of times she runs the brush through her hair, to the number of mouthfuls of apple cake she eats every morning, to the number of paces it takes to get to the cafe.
Into this obsessive life stumbles a man in a chambray shirt. He elbows aside the numbers, jumps the queues, borrows one of her toothbrushes and jumps her into bed as though she was normal.
He soon learns she is one highly messed-up woman. Jordan draws characters, incidents and places with a skill quite outstanding for a first-time novelist.
The story is set in Melbourne where she was born and you can recognise the cafes. The style is witty and choppy and quite moving in places.
The heroine is believable and treated with tenderness. She can even write freshly about sex.
The perfect gift for anyone with a tendency for, say, anorexia.
* Carroll du Chateau is a Herald features writer.
By Toni Jordan
(Text Publishing $35)