When Adele Dumont is diagnosed with trichotillomania — compulsive hair-pulling — it makes sense of much of her life to date. The seemingly harmless quirk of her late teens, which rapidly developed into almost uncontrollable urges and then into trance-like episodes, is a hallmark of the disease, as is the secrecy with which she guarded her condition from her family, friends, and the world at large.
The diagnosis also opens up a rich line of inquiry. Where might the origins of this condition be found? How can we distinguish between a nervous habit and a compulsion? And how do we balance the relief of being ‘seen’ by others with our experience of shame?
Reminiscent of the writing of Leslie Jamison and Fiona Wright, The Pulling is a fascinating exploration of the inner workings of a mind. In perfectly judged prose, both probing and affecting, Dumont illuminates how easily ritual can slide into obsession, and how close beneath the surface horror and darkness can lie.
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