Summary and book reviews of Family and Other Accidents by Shari Goldhagen

Family and Other Accidents

By Shari Goldhagen

Family and Other Accidents
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     Not Yet Rated
  • Hardcover: Apr 2006,
    272 pages.
    Paperback: Apr 2006,
    272 pages.

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Book Summary

Separated by a decade and 200 points on their SAT scores, Jack and Connor Reed have a life in the Cleveland suburbs held together by spit and Chinese takeout. With his self-absorbed, over-the-hill parents dead by his twenty-fifth birthday, Jack has abandoned his own plans and returned to his parents’ house where he works marathon hours at his late father’s law firm, beds young paralegals, and throws money and advice at his teenage brother. Connor meanwhile wants nothing more than to leave the Midwest, start a family early, and do everything the way his parents didn’t. But over the years, through the car crashes and bad break-ups, the illnesses and illicit affairs, both realize that while circumstances are sometimes beyond control, there are always choices to be made.

Family and Other Accidents tells the story of these brothers from their viewpoints as well as from those of their girlfriends, wives, and children. It is a story of what it means to be a family, to love unconditionally in the face of confusion, anger, and regret. Shari Goldhagen’s debut is a finely nuanced, universally resonant portrait of the ties, however strange or awkward, that bind families together through the decades.

One
stealing condoms from joe jr.'s room

One hundred and ninety-eight hours before Jenny Greenspan's birth control pills should kick in, Connor is in juvenile traffic court explaining how he followed a pickup truck through a yellow light and slammed into the side of a minivan.

"It was raining and hard to see." He tries to sound apologetic, the way his brother suggested on the ride over. Really he just wants court to be over so he can use the bathroom; he's had a weird stomachache since Jenny told him about the pill last night. "I assumed it was okay, because the truck ahead of me made it through. I was only following."

"Your Honor, the conditions were treacherous." Next to him Jack pipes in -self--assured and authoritative. "If you look at the accident report, the officer even made note of it."

Bored and gray-bearded, the ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. What do you imagine the relationship between Connor and Jack was like when both of their parents were alive? What about when only their mother was alive?
  2. What does this title mean? What "accidents" happen, and do you agree that they are accidents? Or are Jack and Connor fully in control of their destinies regardless of their pasts?
  3. Where do you think the climax of the novel occurs and why? Do Jack and Connor ever reach any understandings about each other? If so, what might some of those understandings be?
  4. What motivates Jack's and Connor's infidelities? Are those motivations the same or different?
  5. What effect does the irregular passage of time ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse

There's something slightly addictive about this debut novel - something that kept me reading even though not much really happens. it even kept me reading past the teenage sex scene in the first chapter ... Goldhagen describes the family bonds so vividly that it's impossible not to be drawn into her characters' lives. I bet there's many a reader who's finished this novel with a tear in the eye, and picked up the phone to make a long-overdue call to a sibling!   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

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Media Reviews
Publishers Weekly

Unsentimental and emotionally riveting, this is a portrait of the love between people who are not particularly good at loving.

Kirkus Reviews

An unwavering focus on daily life, of the dog-to-the-vet, trip-to-the-convenience-store variety, makes the characters' lives seem real, but also pedestrian. The story's merit is neither on the level of events, which are relatively unexciting, nor of language .... The pervasive emphasis on kindness and responsibility is what gives this book its value.

Library Journal - Leann Restaino

Goldhagen does a wonderful job of describing the familial bond and all the ups and downs and oddities that we consider family. This would also make a good book group selection. Highly recommended.

Booklist - Joanne Wilkinson

In this immensely assured first novel, Goldhagen uses a wealth of skillful techniques to create an indelible portrait of the flawed but loving Reed brothers.

Author Blurb Bill Roorbach, author of The Smallest Color and Big Bend
Jack and Connor are by turns joyous and sad, wise and foolish, fragile and tough, kind and mean, even cruel—but they are always human, always fresh, always surprising, always lovable even when we least want to love them.

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Beyond the Book

Shari Goldhagen is a native Ohioan who holds a lot of writing degrees from Big Ten Schools in the Midwest: A journalism degree from Northwestern and an MFA from Ohio State. She currently lives in New York City where she teaches fiction and works as a freelance writer.

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