Sunday, January 10, 2010

Book 28: Devil in the Details

Devil in the Details: Scenes from an Obessive Girlhood by Jennifer Traig

I picked this up after reading a review of it on Pajiba (I think it was the first selection from this year's Cannonball Read to make it onto the main page). In this memoir, Traig details her experiences with obsessive compulsive disorder as a child and teenager. Her OCD takes a very specific turn as well since she also has scrupulosity, a rather religious form of OCD (and trying to be a strict, Orthodox Jew definitely comes with a lot of rules which appeals to her disorder). Despite all the problems she has had, she approaches her life and her disorder with a sense of humor and there were quite a few very entertaining and funny parts.

While this was all well done, this wasn't a book that kept me gripped in my seat, wanting more. In fact, I was kind of ready for it to end because while her approach and lack of self-pity are very admirable, it also became repetitive. I guess that is rather fitting for a memoir about obsessive compulsive disorder. She also doesn't tell her story in linear fashion which works in some ways but not in others. It is interesting how she discusses different types of her disorder and different symptoms that flare up at separate times (or sometimes all together) but since she lists them all in separate chapters, I think it disguises just how bad it got to an extent. At some points, she seems merely eccentric, at others, it is surprising how her parents even put up with her. Of course, since she grew up in the '70s and '80s, the medical community was not aware of the actual causes and treatments for OCD (chemical disorder and the right drugs respectively).

Overall, it was an interesting view of OCD, especially since I am not too familiar with it beyond the stereotypes. However, to me, after a while, the joke became a little bit old, and I wouldn't have minded something slightly more linear to understand the progression of her disease (even though she did state that it would come and go at times for undetermined reasons).

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