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Family and Other Accidents    by Shari Goldhagen order for
Family and Other Accidents
by Shari Goldhagen
Order:  USA  Can
Doubleday, 2006 (2006)

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

In Family and Other Accidents, Shari Goldhagen charts the lives of two very different brothers - Jack and Connor Reed - beginning in the years when a twenty-something Jack has responsibility for his teen brother after the sudden death of their mother (their father died when Conn was ten).

Connor's angst over looming first sex with his girlfriend Jenny - who announces well in advance that she's started on the pill - reminded me of American Pie, and that thread of humor carries through the novel, as does the presence of a poster of John Kennedy that Conn often consulted for lack of other adult guidance. Jack is a handsome, successful, driven lawyer. He's popular with women and very commitment challenged, as his girlfriend (and much later wife) red-haired Mona discovers. Jack watches over Connor, supplies cash as needed, and obviously cares for him, but finds it impossible to express his feelings. Connor, aware of the early deaths of his own parents, races to live his life, marrying Laine young and having two daughters soon afterwards.

Then Connor gets sick, which Jack finds 'teeth-gnashingly unfair ... Connor's the one who taught with AmeriCorps and works for the Massachusetts reading program, the one who occasionally remembers to recycle and doesn't wear sneakers made by Indonesian children ... Connor cares about his family more than Jack has ever cared about anything'. That illness changes the dynamics of both families. Family and Other Accidents is an insightful read about growing up, understanding who you are and who your siblings are, about loyalty and love in all its guises, and about the isolation of illness even among loved ones.

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