The Condition: Book summary and reviews of The Condition by Jennifer Haigh

The Condition

A Novel

By Jennifer Haigh

The Condition
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  • Published in USA  Jul 2008,
    400 pages.

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Book Summary

The Condition tells the story of the McKotches, a proper New England family that comes apart during one fateful summer. The year is 1976, and the family, Frank McKotch, an eminent scientist; his pedigreed wife, Paulette; and their three beautiful children has embarked on its annual vacation at the Captain's House, the grand old family retreat on Cape Cod. One day on the beach, Frank is struck by an image he cannot forget: his thirteen-year-old daughter, Gwen, strangely infantile in her child-sized bikini, standing a full head shorter than her younger cousin Charlotte. At that moment he knows a truth that he can never again unknown something is terribly wrong with his only daughter. The McKotch family will never be the same.

Twenty years after Gwen's diagnosis with Turner's syndrome, a genetic condition that has prevented her from maturing, trapping her forever in the body of a child, all five family members are still dealing with the fallout. Each believes himself crippled by some secret pathology; each feels responsible for the family's demise. Frank and Paulette are acrimoniously divorced. Billy, the eldest son, is dutiful but distant, a handsome Manhattan cardiologist with a life built on compromise. His brother, Scott, awakens from a pot-addled adolescence to a soul-killing job, a regrettable marriage, and a vinyl-sided tract house in the suburbs. And Gwen is silent and emotionally aloof, a bright, accomplished woman who spurns any interaction with those around her. She makes peace with the hermetic life she's constructed until, well into her thirties, she falls in love for the first time. And suddenly, once again, the family's world is tilted on its axis.

Compassionate yet unflinchingly honest, witty and almost painfully astute, The Condition explores the power of family mythologies, the self-delusions, denials, and inescapable truths that forever bind fathers and mothers and siblings.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Haigh allows the reader to sympathize with each of the family members, and, in turn, to see their flaws and better understand them." - Publishers Weekly.

"Filled with genuine insight and touching lyricism." - Kirkus Reviews.

"Jennifer Haigh illuminates the dark tangle of desire and deed that is the family, that crucible we so often yearn to flee yet keep coming back to again and again. The Condition is unsentimental, compelling, and moving, and I urge you to read it!" - Andre Dubus III, New York Times bestselling author of the National Book Award finalist House of Sand and Fog.

"Haigh’s characters are layered and authentic. Moreover, one would have to have a heart of stone not to care for them and follow their small sagas. . . . Haigh is such a gifted chronicler of the human condition." - Chris Bohjalian, Washington Post Book World.

"The Condition is something rare. . . . Ms. Haigh has a great gift for telling interwoven family stories and doing justice to all the different perspectives they present. . . . A remarkable accomplishment." - Janet Maslin, New York Times Book Review.

"[Haigh] looks unflinchingly at family ties—the kind that limit and the kind that can actually liberate. The Condition is a satisfying feat of literary choreography. . . . Provides ample reason to look forward to Ms. Haigh’s next effort." - Wall Street Journal.

"After the lovely opening, filled with genuine insight and touching lyricism, Haigh overly orchestrates her characters' lives." - Kirkus Reviews.

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Author Information

Jennifer Haigh Author Biography

Jennifer Haigh is a novelist and short story writer. Her first book, Mrs. Kimble, won the 2004 PEN/Hemingway Award for debut fiction. Her second, Baker Towers, was a New York Times bestseller and won the 2006 PEN/L.L. Winship Award for outstanding book by a New England author. Both have been published in nine languages. Other fiction has been published in Granta, Ploughshares, Five Points, Good Housekeeping and other places. Born and raised in western Pennsylvania, Jennifer Haigh is a graduate of Dickinson College and the Iowa Writers' Workshop. She now lives in the Boston area but doesn't get out much. She maintains a large, lively circle of imaginary friends.

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