-- Selected as one of Publishers Weekly’s seven Spring
2006 debuts to watch
-- Published simultaneously in hardcover and paperback
Shari Goldhagen’s highly acclaimed and beautifully layered debut novel, FAMILY AND OTHER ACCIDENTS (Doubleday/Broadway; $23.95/$14.00; April 4, 2006), vividly examines the emotionally charged relationship between two disparate brothers over the course of twenty-five years. With an assured hand and a masterful eye for quotidian details, Goldhagen has crafted an intriguing, original tale of brotherly love. FAMILY charts the Reed brothers’ successes and failures, tragedies and triumphs alongside the varying ties that bind them together.
Jack and Connor are brothers left only with each other after their parents die premature – though unrelated – deaths. With a decade separating them in age, the boys negotiate the years following their orphaning by tiptoeing through their parents’ house and past each other’s bedrooms. As Connor finishes high school, Jack is moving up the corporate ladder at his late father’s law firm. While they clearly love each other, everything is left unsaid as Connor agonizes over whether or not to have sex for the first time with his high school girlfriend while Jack beds yet another paralegal from the office. They’re living under one roof but somehow in completely different universes.
Yet both men are drawn to women who challenge their isolated co-existence. Jack meets Mona, a fledgling reporter at the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, and is instantly drawn to her despite her penchant for unwarranted apologies. Connor’s affection lies with Laine, a vivacious blonde vegetarian with whom he shares his college apartment. Each woman ultimately helps the Reed brothers reconnect with each other and their children, as well as to their long-buried feelings. FAMILY spans two generations of the Reed family and the specter of the past – what it means to love and be loved – informs both Reed brothers and their offspring. Goldhagen deftly navigates the melancholy of every-day life and illuminates how a seemingly innocuous choice can define – or destroy – the bond between two people.
Told in alternating and distinct voices, FAMILY AND OTHER ACCIDENTS captures the lives of two men forced to confront love, loss, success, failure and illness with little else but each other’s unconditional, though not always available, support. The universality of their familial hardships make Connor and Jack a unique yet recognizable pair of protagonists. And, like each of us, they are endearingly flawed. Their losses and growing pains, personal joys and triumphs are keenly felt through the decades over which the novel stretches.