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

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