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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 (342 )
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3.5 (125 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Laurel 12-20-13
    Laurel 12-20-13
    ratings
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    7
    4
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    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
  •  
    Mary Waterloo, ON, Canada 10-06-13
    Mary Waterloo, ON, Canada 10-06-13 Member Since 2014
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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
  •  
    Karen Glen Gardner, NJ, United States 07-09-13
    Karen Glen Gardner, NJ, United States 07-09-13 Member Since 2014

    Likes: Cozy mysteries (cats a plus), personal memoirs,not too dark fantasy, books about the brain. Dislikes: Torture, animal cruelty.

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    "Mildly Enjoyable, somewhat cheesy novel"
    Any additional comments?

    Regular novels aren’t my usual thing but this one caught my eye because the daughter in this book turns out to have Turner Syndrome. Like some other readers, I kind of wished for the girl and her Turners Syndrome to play a more dominant role in the book. It really was no more about her than it was about either of her brothers and I’d say her mom and dad were even more central to the plot. Her one brother was a very typical book character. He’s successful and perfect seeming but has a big secret from his family. That is a fancy way of saying he’s gay. I have no objection to gay characters but I didn’t really need to go through his whole life and his issues about coming out. That has just been done so many times.
    The other brother was I guess a tad more interesting. He is a big time loser. The point of the book though I guess is that while it may sound like it is about Gwen’s condition of Turners it is really more about the human condition. Blech – yes I really did say that. Whether that condition is Gwen’s Turners, Billy’s repressed homosexuality, Scotty’s undiagnosed ADHD and subsequent failures in life, the mom’s numerous complex psychological issues, or the dad’s, everybody has issues. And everybody deals with their issues in ways that so frustrate the reader. Also I think some people would criticize the book for bizarre plot twists – and we certainly have them here.
    Not a great book but somehow I kind of enjoyed it anyway.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Julie Tacoma, WA, United States 06-16-13
    Julie Tacoma, WA, United States 06-16-13
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    "We each have to live our own truth"

    If you like stories about self-acceptance and families, you will like this book. It is an interesrteing story that reminded me that we each have to be true to ourselves, no matter is it means certain relationships run the risk of being forfeited.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Debra 01-28-09
    Debra 01-28-09
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    "Loved it"

    I found this story to be engaging, the author captures the everyday struggles of life. I enjoyed it immensely.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Victoria Appleton, WI, USA 01-03-09
    Victoria Appleton, WI, USA 01-03-09 Member Since 2013
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    "One of the few books I didn't bother to finish"

    I found this to be very slow and uneventful. Could not empathize with any of the characters, or find myself interested in their lives at all. Not what I expected.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Penny Boring, Oregon 12-27-08
    Penny Boring, Oregon 12-27-08 Member Since 2001
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    "Excellent Writer"

    This is a new author to follow! This book was very well written and entertaining. I hated for it to end. Great characters--all of them!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Natasha 10-29-13
    Natasha 10-29-13 Member Since 2013

    Proudly African!

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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 1 people found this review helpful
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