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THE ENUMERATIO­NS Maire Fisher (R224) Umuzi

NOAH Groome is 17 years old and lives with his fa­ther Do­minic, his mother Kate and his younger sis­ter Mad­die. All should be well with the Groome fam­ily, they live in a lovely house, Kate is a de­voted mom to her chil­dren, and Do­minic is a part­ner in a thriv­ing ac­coun­tancy prac­tice. But, there’s a prob­lem. Noah suf­fers from Ob­ses­sive Com­pul­sion Disor­der (OCD) – ev­ery part of his day is mapped and planned, he re­lies on the num­ber five to keep things in or­der, five steps this way, five steps that way, five peb­bles in his pocket to fin­ger…

His walls are cov­ered with sched­ules and timeta­bles. Al­ways an A-stu­dent some­thing has tipped Noah fur­ther into the night­mare of his life with OCD, he also must keep away “the dark” to pro­tect his fam­ily.

Things come to a head when Noah is be­ing taunted by the school bully and his gang of ad­mir­ers, and a cor­nered and much bul­lied Noah thrashes out and hurts an­other boy.

His par­ents are called in and they have to face up to the fact that Noah needs help – three months in a res­i­den­tial home that treats teens with prob­lems.

Kate is heart­bro­ken by the move, Mad­die is dis­traught at not hav­ing her brother at home, and Do­minic re­treats into stepped up rou­tines of run­ning and gar­den­ing – keep­ing things in or­der, but un­able (or ap­par­ently un­will­ing) to give any emo­tional sup­port to his wife, daugh­ter, or his son.

Noah doesn’t want to be at Green­fields and he be­gins his stay there by count­ing down the days un­til his three months are up. He is watched over by Mr Bill and has ther­apy with Ms Turner who is good at read­ing Noah.

Run­ning along­side the story of Noah and his fam­ily is the story of an­other boy, Gabriel, his mom and his baby sis­ter Har­riet who have been de­serted by their gam­bling fa­ther and hus­band. They have taken “refuge” with Gabriel’s mother’s fa­ther, an abu­sive old man who does ev­ery­thing he can to break down the young boy and abuses his mother.

Maire Fisher has cre­ated in both story lines a com­pelling and sen­si­tive story about fam­i­lies with prob­lems. There’s a cou­ple of side­bar sto­ries to the novel, there is Juliet the bad girl from Noah’s school who is also at Green­fields, she moves into his care­fully cu­rated spa­ces and her spon­tane­ity and kind­ness to him break down some of his bar­ri­ers. Kate and Juliet’s mother know each other so­cially and all is not well at Kate’s home. There are sec­ondary char­ac­ters at the home who all bol­ster up the novel’s main theme: how we are dam­aged and how we dam­age.

Fisher has a deft hand in writ­ing about ado­les­cents. She pens her char­ac­ters with a sure hand that hon­ours their pain and suf­fer­ing with­out any con­de­scen­sion.

This makes The Enumeratio­ns a book that will ap­peal to both adults and teens. Noah’s life is not just about symp­toms though, he has a project he has been work­ing on for school, draw­ing up a fam­ily tree.

He’s done well on it on his mother’s side of the fam­ily draw­ing ready to ac­cess in­for­ma­tion from the old fam­ily Bible and hear­ing sto­ries from Kate. But he has drawn a blank on his fa­ther’s side. Do­minic, whose par­ents are dead, wants noth­ing to do with the project, but is haunted by his son’s fre­quent emails beg­ging for any in­for­ma­tion he can fol­low up on.

The more Noah asks the more Do­minic re­treats into his own world.

Fisher may have made Noah the main char­ac­ter of her book, but the other char­ac­ters are just as im­por­tant and well re­alised.

Kate lives in a world of de­spair as her fam­ily is sep­a­rated from the daily pres­ence of Noah, she can’t un­der­stand why her hus­band doesn’t want to visit at fam­ily vis­it­ing time on Sun­days. Mad­die misses her brother hor­ri­bly and can’t wait for Sun­days to see him.

And on the sub­ject of Mad­die Fisher, she shows us just how per­cep­tive her writ­ing and her abil­ity to read her char­ac­ters is, be­cause Mad­die is dam­aged by hav­ing to be the “golden child”, the one who al­ways puts on a cheer­ful face to oil the rusty na­ture of her fam­ily life.

As Noah spends more time at Green­fields, he finds that his friend­ship with Juliet makes him slightly more re­laxed. She’s not as bad as she has been painted and Noah be­gins to see some light at the end of the tun­nel. All the while the reader is teased by the story of Gabriel and why his life is be­ing re­cap­tured in the book.

He isn’t from a wealthy fam­ily and un­likely to end up at the re­fined Green­fields. So, why is his story in the novel at all? All part of a won­der­ful plot that Fisher weaves with ex­tra­or­di­nary skill.

As Noah is forced or helped to peel back the truths that have made his in­her­ent OCD spiral out of con­trol and al­low in the dark, Fisher peels back a story of sub­ur­ban suf­fer­ing and sub­terfuge. There is a rea­son that one of the moms from the school drinks so much, there is a hor­ren­dous rea­son why one of the teens is at Green­fields, all hid­den be­neath the ve­neer of po­lite so­ci­ety. But it’s a so­ci­ety where the hor­ror breaks through into the cock­tail par­ties on oc­ca­sion and is seen not for what it is, but for some­thing for those with­out vis­i­ble prob­lems to shun and gos­sip about.

Fisher’s book is a tragic de­light (if such a thing ex­ists), she al­lows both her teen and adult pro­tag­o­nists to find their way – some­times with ex­treme dif­fi­culty – to a form of sal­va­tion if not com­plete heal­ing.

The Enumeratio­ns is a fine book that grips the reader from be­gin­ning to end. Wise with­out be­ing bor­ing; sad, but with a re­fresh­ing sense of hu­mour in places, and an un­sen­ti­men­tal but real story about the dark that sur­rounds the most seem­ingly suc­cess­ful and or­di­nary peo­ple. This is a novel not to be missed.

A grip­ping read; wise with­out be­ing bor­ing; sad, but with hu­mour

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