Sunday, August 31, 2014

Accidents of Marriage

Title:  Accidents of Marriage
Author:  Randy Susan Meyers
Publication Information:  Atria Books. 2014. 368 pages.
ISBN:  1451673043 / 978-1451673043

Book Source:  I received this book as a publisher's galley through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Favorite Quote:  "Love isn't an excuse for anything but treating someone well."

"All these years .... I've been a prisoner of hope." That is what Maddy realizes about her marriage. She and Ben are married with three children - fourteen year old Emma, nine year old Gracie, and seven year old Caleb. Ben is a successful attorney, and Maddy is a social worker.

Dominating their life is Ben's aggressiveness and anger. These traits make him a successful public defender, but they are destructive towards his family. Maddy has taken to pills to maintain an ability to cope. She walks on egg shells never knowing if, at any given moment, Ben will be the loving, committed man she thought she married or an angry abuser. The children too are "being trained in the fine art of placating an angry man." Essentially, their life is all about Ben and what will make Ben not angry.

Maddy continues to make excuses, to focus on the positives, to take her pills, and to cope. Even that is not enough. One day, a combination of things lead to a terrifying and terrible accident. Fortunately, the children are not in the car, but Maddy ends up in a fight for her life.

How the family copes is the crux of the story. The story is told through the alternating viewpoints of Ben, fourteen year of Emma, and Maddy.

Ben's point of view, not surprisingly, is all about Ben - how the accident affects him, how it's not his fault, and how he will cope. Instead of worrying about his wife whose life is forever altered, he worries about himself. Instead of worrying about his children who are without their anchor in life, he worries about himself. He is a well portrayed picture of a self-centered, self-serving individual.

Fourteen year old Emma is perhaps my favorite character in the book. Reading her point of view makes me wonder what happened to all the grownups in her life. Warranted, her father is worried about only himself, and her mother is in the hospital. What about her grandparents and her aunt? Other sections of the book show that the support exists, but from her point of view, she is floundering alone. She is thrust into the role of caretaker for her younger siblings. She tries a number of coping mechanisms - pills, boys, friends - but finds a way to be there for her siblings and to survive. She's the one you want to reach out and protect.

Maddy's point of view is the toughest one to portray because you get glimpses into what life is before the accident and what it is after.  Before the accident, I have a hard time understanding Maddy's actions. She is a social worker who should recognize the abuse in her marriage. She is independent and has a strong network of family and friends surrounding her. Why does she stay?

After the accident, her actions are impacted by the accident and her relationship with Ben. The two, of course, run together as Ben is a big part of the accident occurring in the first place. Her confusion and injury make it difficult to get into depth as to her perspective. As a result, it is very difficult to connect with Maddy as a character. Since her journey is the anchor for the book, it makes the book a bit difficult to connect to emotionally.

Maddy's confusion and the ending of the book leaves a lot of room to wonder what would you do in that situation. I do appreciate that the author does not try and wrap it into a neat package. Life is not neat, and this book does a good job of capturing the mess and the dysfunction. Unfortunately, with one main character who is not likable and one who is hard to connect to, I enjoyed the story but did not fall in love with it.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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