Through most of her childhood, Jenny Traig suffered from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and its “hyper-religious” cousin scrupulosity. Unfortunately, these problems didn’t have an identification or name in the late 1970’s, so Jenny’s behavior was branded with many different labels.
With Devil in the Details: Scenes from an Obsessive Girlhood, Traig offers a heartfelt, often amusing glimpse into her formative years. Though she and her sister came from a mixed-religious family, Jenny latched onto her father’s Jewish heritage with overextended determination. She took the rituals and discipline of the faith to a level thought extreme even from her rabbi’s point of view.
Traig recounts the circuitry in her brain, which caused her to obsessively focus on basic daily tasks and wage broad philosophical debate on simple actions normally taken for granted. Often, the author had cracked, dried, bleeding hands and lips from constant washing to ward off imaginary decontamination.
“When the disease is full-blown, sufferers are firmly entrenched in neural loops that make them repeat thoughts and actions over and over. In other words, your brain keeps getting back in line for the same carnival ride it didn’t enjoy in the first place. You lose your sunglasses, you throw up on your shirt, and two minutes later, you’re back on the Whizzer. Wheeeee.”
The author’s witty writing style and carefully observant, sometimes dark sense of humor is similar to that of David Sedaris. Therefore, it goes without saying that Devil in the Details is just as enjoyable.