The Condition – Jennifer Haigh

The Condition – Jennifer Haigh

At first glance, this seemed like yet another novel about upper middle class Northeasterners who have Issues. And yes, it’s about upper middle class Northeasterners and yes, they have issues, but all the characters are so finely drawn and their stories so compelling that this was a read somewhat out of the ordinary. Basically, the story starts out like this: The McKotch family goes to the Cape for their usual summer vacation with siblings and nieces and nephews and cousins … a houseful of family. Pauline, the somewhat controlling mother, heads up the McKotch contingent during the week, and is joined by her needy (and she was say sex addict) husband Frank over the weekends. They have problems, but they muddle through. And then in one lightning moment, Frank looks at their daughter Gwen and realized something is wrong, that she is not nearly as developed as her cousin. And it turns out that she has Turner’s Syndrome. The discovery breaks apart the family–not because of the discovery itself but because of how everyone deals with it, including the fact that Paulette and Frank divorce. The rest of the novel follows their lives and the lives of all the children as they, in turn, muddle through. And that they do more than muddle through is the point. It is reductive to say that there are Happy Endings and there are Sad Endings (and of course, whether an ending is happy or sad depends on where in the story you stop). But all told, this was the best kind of happy ending because through it all, the best of Haigh’s characters come shining through in a very real, very human way. I liked this.

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