ArtSpoken & Reviews

The Enumerations by Maire Fisher

Jennifer de Klerk
12/12/2018 10:27:25

Jennifer de Klerk: This is an unsettling and gripping look into the fraught and exhausting world of OCD – Obsessive Compulsive Disorder – and its backlash on the family.

The author has produced an unusual novel which brims with empathy and insight. It weaves two stories into one, moving back and forth in time to bring all the complex threads of motivation and compulsion together.

For teenage Noah, the world is dominated by number 5, his only defence against the Dark. He has to repeatedly count 5, tap 5, step 5; if he fails, catastrophe will overtake him and his family. It’s exhausting, controlling, but he can manage as long as he can maintain his tight routine and its endless rules and rituals.

When his control slips, he ends up in a three-month residential programme with other juvenile misfits, such as Juliet, product of an overbearing father and alcoholic mother, sexually abused Sadie, anorexic Vuyokazi, and transgender Willa.

For his mother Kate, wracked by guilt, his father, more distant by the day, and his adoring little sister Maddie, his departure is both relief and loss, time for them to assess their own hurts.

Alongside Noah’s story runs the story of Gabriel, another traumatised child. Who is Gabriel and what is his link with Noah?

As Noah sweats through his three months of therapy, coping with both everyday irritations and drastic changes that shake his world, he gradually learns that there are more protections from the Dark than number 5. There is acceptance, friendship, family and, ultimately, himself.

Set amid the sultry heat of a Cape Town summer, this is in some ways a very South African story, very real in its situations and implications. The author knows her subject and tells an informative and lively tale with compassion and insight that will reverberate with those who have battled or encountered the complexity that is OCD.

The Enumerations
Maire Fisher
Umuzi - Penguin/Random House
ISBN: 978-1-4152-0964-6

Jennifer de Klerk is editor of