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Just Checking Hardcover – July 1, 1998


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Atria; Signed edition (July 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 067102437X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671024376
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.5 x 0.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,143,837 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

What could have been a fascinating exploration of a complex psyche never gets much beyond the level of stand-up comedy in this disappointing memoir of a young woman's life with obsessive-compulsive disorder. Substituting sarcasm for insight, Colas presents brief, easily digestible tidbits describing her overwhelming fear that she might catch diseases from strangers. She recounts her bizarre rituals of handwashing, garbage disposal, 800-number calling (is this product really safe?) that eventually hurt others and destroyed her marriage. Colas can be funny ?(an episode of the stranger's underpants in the laundromat dryer is especially amusing ("I called my OB to ask her if she'd be willing to test me for gonorrhea")?but her flat prose and superficial approach mask an intelligence that's never sufficiently engaged with this material?a typical analysis is, "It sucks big time." Though Colas provides occasional glimpses of a disturbed childhood, she quickly covers them up with her flippant comic routine. She's disappointed that her illness is less interesting than heroin addiction?it's just "insanity lite," she writes, and "Rock stars don't get magazine covers because they kept their audience waiting while they washed their hands twenty times." By keeping her book at the level of a Seinfeld routine, Colas ensures that readers will gain little insight into a condition that deserves better treatment than it gets in this memoir lite.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Colas worries a lot. She fears that the baby-sitter is using the family's toothbrushes. She suspects someone has tampered with her Cap'n Crunch. An obsessive-compulsive mother of two, Colas makes worry an art. This anecdotal, first-person account of Colas' illness is highly readable and funny. It also benefits from one of the symptoms of the illness (which affects 2.5 percent of Americans over the life course): a vague awareness that something is awry. At its best, Just Checking is a lighthearted glimpse of a treatable illness. But it's not the whole story. After she runs over a chipmunk, Colas repeatedly returns to the scene to verify that she has not killed a child. Behind the comic behaviors that Colas emphasizes is a gnawing disorder that is often painful and frightening. One hopes that Colas will take up her pen again, explore this part of her experience, and risk the darkness. Lee Reilly

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 2, 1999
Format: Hardcover
What I haven't noticed in reviews posted here is a description of this book's form. It's not a continuous narrative; rather, it's made up out of sharp vignettes which each have a title taken from a popular phrase. This does give it the feel of a stand-up routine, of linked pieces, rather than an organic story. However, Colas's intelligent witty writing is not only humorous, but also is one of the best presentations of how "logical" OCD-caused rituals can seem to those who suffer from it and how you become trapped inside your own head with no reference to reality. I did wish the book longer and for it to have a more coherent structure, but it's an amazing first book and a genuinely good entry into the exponentially expanding field of literature deadling with psychological illness -- both in the sense of being well-written and in describing symptoms. People who have relatives or loved ones who suffer from OCD might especially want to read this book for its black humor and excellent descriptions of how it _feels_ to have something most people can't even begin to understand.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 26, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This is absolutely one of the sharpest, smartest, most honest pieces of writing that I have ever read. Emily Colas is extraordinarily talented and I will eagerly look forward to her next endevour. I am convinced that Colas could tackle any topic with only stellar results. She has the heart of an angel and the wit and style of a superstar. Congatulations, Emily!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 17, 1998
Format: Hardcover
With the help of medication Emily Colas has managed to sit down and knock out a book that takes you inside the head of an obsessive compulsive. It's not cute, it's not quirky, it's not charmingly eccentric or any of the other adjectives common TV portrayals of this illness would lead you to believe. It is a living hell that confines Colas to her house and severes her links from society with extreme fear and a mind bent on extrapolating threat from every detail of life. Spots on the sidewalk? Must be disease carrying blood. But through shoes? Well, they soles of them are worn thin in some places...Dinner date with an attractive guy presents a dilemma: switch your poisoned plate fo his while he's in the kitch fetching salt? But then you might get fingered for his murder. Eat it yourself and die? And Colas ends up marrying this guy, who ends up being part of a household where rituals include buying six toothbrushes for colas and then helping her inspect the outer and inner wrapping for air-tightness. Tasting her food at restaurants to be sure there are no ground up hypodermic needles in there...naturally, in spite of "in sickness and in health" it gets to be too much. So Colas hides her fears from her husband for awhile, successfully, until she gives it away one day when she nears the TV to change the volume just as the character starts to vomit blood, and Colas can't contain her terror that the TV screen character may have exposed her to some disease...Cola's writes with candor and lack of self pity. She dispassionately flays the mind of an OCD, and she does so in a spare, no-frills style that includes everything you need to know and no more. It's riveting and horrifying at the same time, and Colas has done a great service towards the understanding of mental illness.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 23, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Emily Colas is an amazing writer. I loved JUST CHECKING and read it in one sitting. Colas reminds me of David Sedaris--her humor is biting, her perceptions keen, and the events she recounts are eminently memorable. This isn't a book only for obsessive-compulsives--it's for everyone who recognizes that type of behavior in themselves. From AS GOOD AS IT GETS to Howard Stern, to our own personal obsessions about gas leaks or catching a disease from a public phone, this book is about a topic to which we can all relate.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Betsy Pascucci on March 23, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I suppose if you happen to suffer from OCD this book is about as satisfying as a chicklette for dessert, but I'm just a run of the mill neurotic, so I have to say I found it quite enjoyable. But I'm guilty about that, believe me. Emily Colas lives a difficult life, no doubt, but that she can carry on with such humor is amazing to me. I think if I had a poison-in-the-food phobia, I'd never leave the house, never mind get married and have children. She's a brave woman who wrote an interesting and very funny book. Though it's not for everyone. My husband, when I explained why I was laughing with my nose in a book, was appalled when I read a portion to him. He made me feel guiltier yet - but not guilty enough to put the book down. It was good. More, Ms. Colas
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 1, 1998
Format: Hardcover
I read this book and cringed for Emily Colas. The type of obsessive-compulsive disorder she possesses is so pulverizing, it will make you think twice about some of your own little quirks and foibles. She exhibits great courage and little self-consciousness about her disease. This level of OCD can be unusually difficult to treat, so they tell me, and the fact that Colas is still with us, hasn't mutilated herself beyond recognition, can still laugh, understands how far she can go (and has gone)...well, it's nothing short of amazing. The writing style leaves a little to be desired, but the book's short length is about all anyone could stand to read about OCD. My hat is off to the author. I also promise I will NEVER check to see if the glass rim has a chip on it ever again.
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