Karen Gregory, Countless, Bloomsbury/Allen & Unwin, May 2017, 272pp., $16.99 (pbk), ISBN: 9781408882504
Hedda is seventeen, jobless, living alone, and anorexic. She even has a name for her eating disorder – Nia. Hedda is also pregnant. At 23 weeks, Hedda’s only option is to have the baby, but that means she needs to eat. She and Nia call a truce, but it is temporary. And Nia is always watching, waiting, and counting – steps, mouthfuls and calories. And after the baby is born, Hedda must face the hardships of new motherhood whilst completely unsupported.
Gregory’s character-driven story offers no band-aid solutions. Hedda is a complex, self-absorbed, manipulative character who is defined by her disorder. In fact, few characters in the story are likable. Each character is flawed and, as a result, realistic. The clinic’s psychologist, for example, has no simple fix for Hedda and we see her own personal struggle to make a difference in the lives of the girls suffering from eating disorders.
Countless is a harsh look at teen pregnancy within a low-socioeconomic situation. Well-written and uncomfortably believable, this was an engrossing, but not enjoyable, book to read. I found myself invested in the story despite the emotions it evoked.
Raw, painful, frustrating and sad, Countless is a poignant glimpse into the life of a girl firmly in the grips of anorexia.
Reviewed by Fiona Miller-Stevens