Click here to read reviewer Amanda Cuda's take on Family and Other Accidents.
What appears at first to be a simple family saga, two orphaned brothers alone against the world after the untimely deaths of their parents, evolves into a dramatic tour de force. Shari Goldhagen’s deft touch imbues her characters with layers of emotional ambiguity that finally renders them as familiar as member of our own families.
In this moving account of the nature of loss, the fragility of emotional connections and the importance of family, Connor Reed, fifteen, is left in the care of his handsome older brother, Jack. Following in his father’s footsteps in an Ohio law firm, Jack is prepared for financial success but unprepared for the responsibility of his sibling, a decade older than Connor and in the throes of his own manhood. Nubile young women revolve through his bedroom while Connor listens on the other side of the door.
Connor grows into manhood as Jack continues his indiscretions - until he meets Mona. Increasingly anxious in the empty house after Connor leaves for college, Jack invites Mona to move in with him, their identity as a couple implicit over the years.
The two brothers float in and out of each other’s lives, lacking the guidance of extended family and making up most of their solutions to the problems that arise. Connor marries first and has two children; Jack skates on the brittle edge of commitment with Mona. In this arbitrary manner, Jack and Connor go their separate ways, seemingly disconnected and unable to express their feelings for one another.
Clearly, Jack and Connor are uniquely crippled by their early losses. Their recurring foibles and failures are the product of ignorance, a confusion recognizable in the partners they choose, in their inability to reach out for comfort or offer any, and their sad fumbling toward meaningful relationships.
Difficult times require more of these two men than they have prepared for, circumstances that render them powerless, opening the door of a future without the connections they have taken for granted as brothers. In this unfamiliar territory, moments of grace and revelation create an unbreakable bond that is inexplicably sustained through the years, neither man acting consciously, but drawing closer nevertheless.
Through inspired yet subtle characterization, the author defines the brothers and their respective mates, their failures and triumphs in the world at large, but more significantly the treacherous waters of isolation. Goldhagen’s carefully crafted characters cautiously navigate a success-driven modern world, plagued by the usual disconnections, each managing to bridge the abyss to embrace family and brotherhood in a novel that will touch your heart in unexpected places.