ACCIDENTS OF MARRIAGE
by Randy Susan Meyers
• Paperback: 368 pages
• Publisher: Washington Square Press; Reprint edition (June 9, 2015)
“This novel’s unsparing look at emotional abuse and its devastating consequences gives it gravity and bite, while a glimpse into a physically damaged mind both surprises and fascinates.”—People Magazine
“A complex, captivating tale.”—Boston Globe
“A deft exploration of the borders of abuse and the aftermath of tragedy, the triumphs and disappointments of recovery, and the possibilities of faith and forgiveness.”—Star Tribune
“Unputdownable and unforgettable. I just loved it—and I’ll now read everything Randy Susan Meyers writes.”—Liane Moriarty, NYT bestselling author of The Husband’s Secret
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“Sabine belonged to the Wednesday Blues Club. Some members still wore their black-and-blues; some only carried the memories of being beaten.”
“Time had a new meaning – before and after. When she’d looked at a calendar that morning, it didn’t seem possible it was only two weeks since the accident. It seemed like forever.”
“She couldn’t possibly be bringing good news, right? Hospitals were citadels of horror, with nurses bearing the early warnings. Compassionate canaries in the health mine – that’s what they were.”
“When she was twelve, Emma had asked to go to Hebrew School, just like her classmate, Gillian, who was preparing for her bat mitzvah. Emma had imagined it being like an Israeli Girl Scout. The Diary of Anne Frank had haunted her; after reading it, she’d gone online and read all the horrifying possibilities of being Jewish. Going to Hebrew School seemed a way to prevent being sent to a concentration camp and having to run around naked in front of laughing soldiers.”
“Words popped into her mind without grounding. Her brain seemed like a half-filled trunk. Where once it was packed with rows of facts and thoughts, now things rolled around, came out of nowhere.”
“Maddy tried to do more when he wasn’t home, but her mother hovered every time she turned around. It was like having your shadow sewn to your shirt.”
“Zelda’s beautiful clothes hung off her dime thin body like woven money.”
“Waves of rage made everything inside her tumble, knocking her heart into her guts. How could such hatred stay inside a body? She waited to erupt in boiling pus-filled hives of anger.”
“Maybe I don’t know how. To give up on someone I love. But if I need to, I can learn.”
I was engrossed in this smartly written family drama from beginning to end. It is not a thrill ride or an action adventure, nor is it romantic, steamy, or salacious. It is deftly written with cringe-worthy real-life disappointments, and I found it to be fascinatingly insightful and relevant. To have the skill and capacity to write such specific details so clearly and in such an entertaining and crafty manner, Ms. Meyers is obviously a keen observer to have digested and understood the feelings, thoughts, patterns and particular tendencies of these unusual people of varying ages and stages of their relationships. I am in awe and transfixed, she has mad skills! I could not stop reading and resented any interruption that involved having to put down my beloved kindle and attend to my real-life – specifically those pesky things known as employment and sleep.
The Illica family is common, yet each family member was unique and greatly intrigued me. While well-educated, successful, and professional, neither parent in this home was fully functional on their own – either before or after the accident. They are both selfish, immature, deeply flawed, and prone to blaming and setting each other off. Although they both seemed to have some niggling self-awareness and concerns, they quickly diverted themselves from these troublesome and unwelcome thoughts of personal responsibility whenever they arose. The lawyer father’s typical manner appeared to be moody, agitated, hostile, or on-edge, and he is prone to ranting and throwing things when provoked. The social worker mother knows all the right things to do, but doesn’t do them; she dithers and lives in a state of partial denial and addled self-medicated numbness. She is disorganized - although she makes lists, she doesn’t follow them. She is concerned and apparently performs well on the job, but lacks follow through at home and allows important details to fall through the cracks. Her various and extensive drug stashes indicates she is a functioning junkie. In my opinion, the most mature person in the home is the nine-year old middle child. The eldest being a surly teenager, who is unfortunately thrust into domestic slave mode after the accident, and the youngest, being the only son and male grandchild, is an over indulged brat.
Things are not going well and trouble is already brewing when a horrible accident occurs that results in a head injury, and the need for a long and involved recuperation for mom. She noted to the doctor that being a social worker - at one time she was the one writing the charts rather than being in one. This devastating trauma was far-reaching in many aspects with deep impact on every family member; and was actually be the best thing to happen to this family – I know that is an awful thing to say - but sometimes it takes an extreme event to finally obtain a stubborn person’s attention. The accident also rallied the extended family and circle of friends to wake up and discuss other issues and secrets coming to light, that really weren’t secrets after all.
Though writing about disturbing and unpleasant memories and emotional events, Ms. Meyers sneaks in humorous asides and ancillary observations that lessens the horror and typically adds to the story in an entertaining yet thoughtful manner. My favorite scene involves the three young children attempting to seek out religion by attending temple. Their talk with the rabbi was humorous, spot on, and touching.
Although deeply damaged and questionable about their marriage, both adults are better people at the end of the book. While some readers may not see the author’s conclusion to the story as a happy ending, it appears to be the best possible outcome and left me satisfied and hopeful for their future.
About Randy Susan Meyers
The drama of Randy Susan Meyers’ novels is informed by her work with families impacted by emotional and family violence.
Her newest novel, Accidents of Marriage, examines the slippery definitions of emotional abuse and explores tragic circumstances forcing a family to challenge the dynamics that have long-defined them.
Randy is a founding member of Beyond The Margins, a site dedicated to the craft of writing and the business of publishing, and coauthored the guide, What To Do Before Your Book Launch, with writer M.J. Rose. She lives in Boston with her husband, where she teaches at Grub Street Writer’s Center.
Find out more about Randy at her website, and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads.