My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Exploring emotional abuse and traumatic brain injury with unblinking honesty, ACCIDENTS OF MARRIAGE (Atria Books; Trade Paperback ) is a blindingly clear and immediately engaging account of life inside of a marriage and the choices that can make the difference between living in hell and salvation.
The latest page turner from Randy Susan Meyers, ACCIDENTS OF MARRIAGE never lets go of the reader from the first page to the last. For Madeline Illica, the love of her husband Ben was her greatest blessing and biggest curse. Brilliant and charming Ben could turn into a raging bull when crossed—and despite her training as a social worker Maddy never knew what would cross him. When Ben was in a conciliatory mood, they worked on techniques for communication and anger management but on the day of the accident, nothing seemed to help. He was furious at having to drive Maddy to work, the road was wet, and that SUV was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Ben never meant for them to go off the road or for Maddy to go flying through the windshield.
Now she’s on a ventilator in intensive care and no one knows if she’ll reawaken from her coma and, if she does, whether she’ll ever be her old self. Maddy’s family blames Ben. Maddy’s friends blame Ben. The children blame Ben. Ben blames Ben—and he is sick to the pit of his soul over the fear of losing his one true love.
Fourteen-year-old Emma sees things a little differently. She desperately misses her mother but misses being a teenager more as she’s forced to pick up the slack from Ben and parent her younger siblings Gracie and Caleb. On the cusp of coming of age, she needs Maddy so she can discuss the hard decisions she’s being forced to make. And her confrontations with her volatile father are growing more heated by the day.
RANDY SUSAN MEYERS is the author of The Comfort of Lies and The Murderer’s Daughters and a finalist for the Massachusetts Book Award. Her writing is informed by her work with batterers and victims of domestic violence, as well her experience with youth impacted by street violence. She lives with her husband in Boston, where she teaches writing seminars at the Grub Street Writers’ Center. She is also a frequent contributor to The Huffington Post.
ACCIDENTS OF MARRIAGE
By Randy Susan Meyers
Atria Books; Trade Paperback
$16 US/$21 CAN; 368 pages
My thoughts: This book resonated for me for an entirely different reason than the description predicted. I watched a piece of my life being told through this book but not the one the message portrays. Maddy is a social worker who suffers a debilitating traumatic brain injury. Without revealing too much about her injury, she struggles initially with speech and emotional regulation. This is not necessarily the worst of her symptoms but those skills are paramount to a social worker. In layman's terms, the story explains the different symptoms and the way the patient may react to these symptoms that fascinated me and gave me a better comprehension of what my husband, the social worker, went through when he underwent a removal of a hemangioma located in the speech center of his brain. His healing was different but terrifying for those first few weeks when he struggled to speak, knowing his career depended on regaining this skill. I'd love to continue on this vein, but it would give spoilers of the book and reveal secrets that are not mine to share. So I'll return solely to the book.
The three perspectives are very necessary to fully explore the affects of a man with strong narcissistic tendencies and lack of anger management. Yet I thought the author did an exceptional job with providing a multi dimensional character. He's not a bad man. He feels guilt, rationalization, love, lust for power, and anger. His emotional outbursts are not clear cut. The relationships he has are complex. He has insecurities and truly believes he is changing. He's trying to put himself right.
Prior to the accident, Maddy is not a cowering victim. She is a strong woman who balances the demands of a family and a career with both gratitude and frustration. She is also human and not above reproach. That said, post accident, Ben doting on her, she has the faculties to know she is not functioning at previous levels and she blames herself. She turns her anger and frustration inward yet acknowledges that people don't just want to help a victim, they also want to kick a victim.
Emma is the oldest child of this couple. Her perspective is that of an adolescent that is caught between childhood and adulthood yet thrust into adult responsibilities as her mother is disabled and all attention shifts to Maddy and her recovery while Emma is left caring for two siblings and the house. In the meantime, it becomes her role to keep the home peaceful in case Ben snaps. She becomes the protector but with deep resentment as her own brain is not fully formed and she still needs a childhood.
There is much, much more that I believe would make for an interesting discussion. I enjoyed the book almost as much as Lisa Genova's, LEFT NEGLECTED.