Devil in the Details

Scenes from an obsessive girlhood.
by Jennifer Traig

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, shed gone from quirky girl to raving lunatic.

Jennifer’s childhood mania was the result of her undiagnosed Obsessive Compulsive Disorder joining forces with her own interpretation of Hebrew studies. While preparing for her bat mitzvah, she had been introduced to an entire set of laws she never knew existed. This unleashed a level of religiosity completely alien to her upbringing. But her obsessions wore increasingly on her, her family, and her few friends, leading to a crisis that not even joining every single school club, no matter her level of interest or aptitude, could save her from.

With an unsparing eye and deep affection for those who put up with her and got her through, Jennifer Traig delivers a masterpiece of rueful candor — funny, heartbreaking, and irresistible for anyone who ever looked back at their teenage self and cringed.(246 Pages)

Publisher: Little, Brown & Co., 2004

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