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.
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
"Filled with genuine insight and touching lyricism." (Kirkus Reviews)
Like another reviewer, I chose this book based on the Audible recommendation, and I, too, was very disappointed. The author continually presented situations where the characters could make a choice and change their lives, but instead they consistently made bad choices. There were so many opportunities to give the characters some depth; it's too bad the author kept her characters so one-dimensional.
I loved this book. The genre of "flawed family dynamics" can be really good or really bad...and this was a really good one. The characters of the family were well developed and believable, and the addition of a daughter with an unusual medical condition was accurately described with empathy. I could have listened to this one straight through, if my life hadn't interfered...
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.
When I saw this book mentioned by another review, I thought I was choosing a book that was a heart felt story about a little girl with a desperate disease. What I got instead was a boring, slow moving episodic book about a man who is a sex fiend and his closed off ex wife's family. The character who plays the sick person is not developed well at all. I was so bored with this book that I couldn't listen to more than 2 hours of it.
The performance almost saved the book for me. However, even the pleasing voice of the narrator could not hold my attention.
I do not like this book. I too chose it because of the good recommendations, but I don't get it. I have not finished the book yet. I came back to look at reviews to see why I even chose it. I may try a few more chapters but I am here to look for another book.
I just did not find the story or characters interesting.
I will review my review if I get through the book.
The only thing that could have made this book any better would have been A PLOT! Imagine that. The book it titled The Condition, but the there is maybe 15 minutes spent on the girl who actually has the Condition. The rest is depressing background information on all of the characters.
I kept waiting for the point of the story to come out. I finally just tossed it. What a waste!
No. I only listened for two hours before giving up.
No problem with the narration.
No. Characters are one-dimensional, and hard to believe in a story that cried out for depth.
The concept of "The Condition" - that each person in this typically flawed family carries the burden of his/her own condition, which impacts the others, was a good one and carries it through.
No. I found her reading had a sing-songy, over-acted quality that was distracting to me.
The story was certainly interesting enough to motivate me to continue to the end.
The outcomes of each of the characters, in the end, was a little too tidy and trite for me, thus knocking the "believability factor" down a few notches.
Audiobooks have had such a positive impact on my quality of life as I have Chronic Migraine & screens/print can be too hard to view often!
This book was good, and I found the family story interesting, but it got a bit long in places in my opinion. It also jumped around a bit frenetically from character to character. I did learn about a syndrome that was new to my base of medical knowledge, and in an affecting way.
The narrator was fabulous; I have listened to so many audiobooks and Jennifer Van Dyck, who read this, was absolutely smooth and beautiful as a narrator. I will definitely be on the lookout for more books read by her!
The end of this story ties it all together well, and made me smile.
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