"Family and Other Accidents"
(Reviewed by Eleanor Bukowsky MAY 1, 2006)
”And he thinks that maybe Jack is right, maybe things are in flux, changing directions on a whim. Isn’t it true that everything in his life is the way it is because of a series of glitches?”
Family and Other Accidents is the episodic story of Jack and Connor Reed, told over a span of twenty-five years. By the time he is twenty-five years old, Jack's parents are both dead. He has given up a terrific job to move back to the family home in Cleveland in order to take care of his adolescent brother and work in his late father's law firm. What kind of example does Jack set for Connor? The devastatingly handsome Jack picks up girls, has brief flings with them, and subsequently discards them like disposable tissues. Connor comes and goes as he pleases, fools around with his girlfriend, and tries not to think too hard about his past or future.
Each chapter moves forward to another stage in the Reeds' lives, but there are occasional flashbacks, as well, each one illuminating some aspect of the brothers' personalities. Years pass and Jack seems to be settling in with a journalist named Mona Lockridge, but he never fully commits to her. When Connor is in Harvard graduate school, he has a fling with a woman named Laine, and she becomes pregnant. Tough decisions must be made. Should Laine and Connor keep the baby? Should they move in together or get married?
Shari Goldhagen's novel is a celebration of life with all of its messiness—the good and bad choices, the joys and sorrows, the relief and regrets, and the fulfilled dreams and dashed hopes that everyone experiences at one time or another. The one constant in Connor's and Jack's lives is their unshakeable bond. Ironically, long periods of time go by when the two barely communicate, but Jack and Connor know that they can depend on one another for help and support during times of tragedy and heartache.
Family and Other Accidents is warm, sexy, funny, intimate, and intensely human. Although there are many soap opera elements in this novel, Goldhagen is careful never to cross the line into melodrama. Jack and Connor are extremely flawed individuals who are far from heroic. In fact, they are often selfish, faithless to the women in their lives, immature and obnoxious. So why should the reader care about them? Goldhagen makes her protagonists so appealingly clueless that we hope a light bulb will go on over their heads, and that they will learn to appreciate the devoted women who stand by them. Family and Other Accidents demonstrates the importance of never taking for granted those who share our history—siblings, parents, wives, and children. Since life is so unpredictable, a devoted family member may be a person’s most precious asset.
- Amazon readers rating: from 26 reviews
Read a chapter excerpt from Family and Other Accidents at Broadway Books
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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)
- Family and Other Accidents (April 2006)
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- Official website for Shari Goldhagen
- Reading Guide for Family and Other Accidents
- Gothamist's review and interview for Family and Other Accidents
- Trashotron review of Family and Other Accidents
- ThisWeekNews interview/review of Family and Other Accidents
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About the Author:
Shari Goldhagen holds an MFA from Ohio State and a journalism degree from Northwestern. She is a fellow of both Yaddo and MacDowell. While writing Family and Other Accidents, Shari stalked celebrities for The National Enquirer, Life & Style and Celebrity Living Weekly.
Shari currently lives in New York City where she teaches fiction and works as a freelance writer.