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The Condition | [Jennifer Haigh]

The Condition

The Condition tells the story of the McKotches, a proper New England family that comes apart during one fateful summer. One day on the beach, Frank McKotch is struck by an image he cannot forget: his 13-year-old daughter, Gwen, strangely infantile in her child-sized bikini, standing a full head shorter than her younger cousin Charlotte. At that moment, he knows a truth that he can never again unknow: something is terribly wrong with his only daughter.
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Audible Editor Reviews

PEN/Hemingway Award winner Jennifer Haigh takes the listener inside the lives of a seemingly perfect everyday family and exposes the fault lines that threaten their happiness. All of the five family members have flaws, secrets, and special needs that contribute to the conflict and ultimate resolution - which, despite the extreme dysfunctionality of the characters, offers an optimistic depiction of the power of love. Jennifer Van Dyck is an excellent choice to present this understated novel. While her tone is gentle and conversational, her pace is brisk. Without ever becoming strident or artificial she displays a full range of emotion as she gives a clear voice to each member of this family.

Publisher's Summary

The Condition tells the story of the McKotches, a proper New England family that comes apart during one fateful summer. The year is 1976, and the family - Frank McKotch, an eminent scientist; his pedigreed wife, Paulette; and their three beautiful children - has embarked on its annual vacation at the Captain's House, the grand old family retreat on Cape Cod.

One day on the beach, Frank is struck by an image he cannot forget: his 13-year-old daughter, Gwen, strangely infantile in her child-sized bikini, standing a full head shorter than her younger cousin Charlotte. At that moment, he knows a truth that he can never again unknow: something is terribly wrong with his only daughter. The McKotch family will never be the same.

Twenty years after Gwen's diagnosis with Turner's syndrome, a genetic condition that has prevented her from maturing, trapping her forever in the body of a child, all five family members are still dealing with the fallout. Each believes himself crippled by some secret pathology; each feels responsible for the family's demise. Frank and Paulette are acrimoniously divorced. Billy, the eldest son, is dutiful but distant, a handsome Manhattan cardiologist with a life built on compromise. His brother, Scott, awakens from a pot-addled adolescence to a soul-killing job, a regrettable marriage, and a vinyl-sided tract house in the suburbs.

Gwen is silent and emotionally aloof, a bright, accomplished woman who spurns any interaction with those around her. She makes peace with the hermetic life she's constructed until, well into her 30s, she falls in love for the first time. And suddenly, once again, the family's world is tilted on its axis.

Compassionate yet unflinchingly honest, witty and almost painfully astute, The Condition explores the power of family mythologies - the self-delusions, denials, and inescapable truths that forever bind fathers and mothers and siblings.

©2008 Jennifer Haigh; (P)2008 HarperCollins Publishers

What the Critics Say

"Filled with genuine insight and touching lyricism." (Kirkus Reviews)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.4 (305 )
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3.3 (93 )
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3.5 (95 )
5 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Performance
Sort by:
  •  
    Joanne Maple Ridge, British Columbia, Canada 12-13-10
    Joanne Maple Ridge, British Columbia, Canada 12-13-10 Member Since 2006

    Tell us about yourself!

    HELPFUL VOTES
    104
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    Overall
    "drab and slow"

    was very disappointed with this book. the brief bio looked good..but i found it really dragged. "the condition" so to speak; didn't really develop until the later part of section 2 -- and was pretty much insignificant. This book lost my attention on many occasions and really required effort to keep listening. I found most of the characters drab and the plot yawned along at a snails pace.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Laura Lynnfield, MA, United States 08-18-10
    Laura Lynnfield, MA, United States 08-18-10 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
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    1
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    "Huge disappointment!"

    I, too, chose this selection based on readers' reviews; I was very disappointed. I couldn't have cared less about these characters and found them completely two-dimensional. Any growth they experienced seemed arbitrary and contrived and I couldn't find any sympathy for any of their "conditions". The language was flat and uninteresting, and I'd be hard- pressed to chose another offering by this author.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rita Cassady 07-14-09 Listener Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
    10
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    "The Condition"

    Long and seem to go no where.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Elisabeth Durham, NC, United States 01-17-09
    Elisabeth Durham, NC, United States 01-17-09 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
    210
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    Overall
    "A contrived story; not Haigh's best"

    An ok story - quite contrived. The description leads you to think it is about a medical condition suffered by one of the female characters, which is actually only one segment of the story. Ends up each character suffers from some sort of "condition" whether it be medical, pyschological or societal. While listening, I just kept thinking how contrived it felt; forced. Listen to Haigh's Mrs. Kimble instead.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lynne Sydney, Australia 06-11-14
    Lynne Sydney, Australia 06-11-14 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    4
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    "Hard to fathom the many good reviews"
    Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

    No. I only listened for two hours before giving up.


    Would you ever listen to anything by Jennifer Haigh again?

    Not especially.


    How did the narrator detract from the book?

    No problem with the narration.


    Was The Condition worth the listening time?

    No. Characters are one-dimensional, and hard to believe in a story that cried out for depth.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gretchen Salinas, CA, United States 04-16-14
    Gretchen Salinas, CA, United States 04-16-14 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
    6
    ratings
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    Story
    "not so good"

    This was a depressing book. The characters were not well developed. Several times I almost quit listening.






    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Laurel Chico, CA, United States 12-20-13
    Laurel Chico, CA, United States 12-20-13 Member Since 2011
    ratings
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    3
    3
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Gwen Triumphs!"
    What made the experience of listening to The Condition the most enjoyable?

    So much dysfunction, but each in the family with their own perspective.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Condition?

    Enjoyed Gwen coming into her own and finding love.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Natasha Centurion, South Africa 10-29-13
    Natasha Centurion, South Africa 10-29-13 Member Since 2012

    Proudly African!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "An interesting, realistic and intreaging book"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Yes. The story is unpredictable, full of twists and turns you never expect. The story is a totally realistic account of the characters' lives.


    What did you like best about this story?

    I like how it is not a story told by a narrator only or one specific person but you get each character's perception of his and the other's lives.


    What does Jennifer Van Dyck bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    Passion and clarity on each character. I would have got confused when there was so much switching between characters.


    If you could take any character from The Condition out to dinner, who would it be and why?

    Scott. He seems to be underestimated throughout the book and is living in a way that everyone expects of him.. with a mediocre life and as an underachiever. He is the character that reflects the most on his life, realizes more profoundly how he has affected his future and that the other characters are not to blame for his failures. He is the one that tries the hardest to be more and he gives up more to be better and help his family. He tries the hardest to be the most emotionally stable.


    Any additional comments?

    I can't wait to listen to it again :)

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mary Waterloo, ON, Canada 10-06-13
    Mary Waterloo, ON, Canada 10-06-13 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Interesting, but often meandering"

    Though the overall story of this book is interesting, it moves at such a slow pace that it gets frustrating. This is due to the use of backstory. Sometimes, this background has a point and is connected to the story, but often I was thinking why, let's please get on with it. From my perspective, the "condition" of the character Gwen was just a piece of the plot line, no more or less significant than the personality traits of the other family members. I am glad that the author did tie up the story lines which gives the reader closure. The narrator was good but I did often wonder whether I would have read the characters quite as "hard" as she did.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lorna Johannesburg, South Africa 07-25-13
    Lorna Johannesburg, South Africa 07-25-13 Member Since 2010

    I have a busy career, travel a lot and don't have much time to read, so I listen to Audio books. I love reading!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "And then it ended!!!!"

    I was enthralled from the first word.. an amazingly honest and poignant story. The characters were painfully true, with all their day to day worries and insecurities. A family that unravels drifts apart and then comes together again in the most fragile way.

    A story we can all relate to on some level.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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