'Devil in the Details'
By: Jennifer Traig
(Hardcover / 256 Pages / Little, Brown / ISBN: 0316158771 / $22.95)
Description: When her father found the washing machine crammed with everything from her sneakers to her barrettes, 12-year-old Jennifer Traig had a simple explanation: they'd been tainted by the pork fumes emanating from the kitchen and had to be cleansed. The same fumes compelled Jennifer to meticulously wash her hands for 30 minutes before dinner: "All scrubbed in for your big casserolectomy, Dr. Traig?," her mother asked. It wasn't long before her family's exasperation made Jennifer realize that her behavior had gone beyond fastidious - in her own eyes, she'd gone from quirky girl to raving lunatic!
Verdict: In this 1970s memoir, Traig describes how, from the age of 12 until her freshman year at Brandeis, she suffered from various forms of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), including anorexia and a rarer, "hyper-religious form" of OCD called scrupulosity, in which sanctified rituals such as hand washing and daily prayer are repeated in endless loops. The daughter of a Jewish father and a Catholic mother, Traig becomes obsessed with Jewish ritual, inventing her own prayers since her Jewish education is limited. Initially, Traig's family is amused; eventually, they try to help. Still, this memoir is less about suffering than it is about punch lines!
Reviewed by Joyce Martins