The Condition by Jennifer Haigh

conditionHumongous thanks to Melissa for passing this along to me. I loved it.  It’s been a while since I’ve read a book of this type/style and I had forgotten how much I like it.  The story/writing reminded me very much of Anne Tyler, one of my favorite writers.

The story is about one family– Paulette and Frank, and their three children Bill, Scott, and Gwen—and the relationships they have with each other, how they misunderstand each other, and the family ties they have.  What I especially loved about this story was the structure of it.  The first chapter, actually I think it’s the prologue, is set in the 70s on the Cape at the family’s summer house.  Told from the point of view of Paulette it sets you up to see how she views her husband and children and how meaningful her family history is to her.  At the end of the chapter her husband has noticed, and thus made her notice, that their daughter Gwen has not begun puberty like her cousin has.  And thereafter everything in their family changes.  Gwen is diagnosed with Turner’s Syndrome and the story picks up over twenty years later, the children all adults with their own lives and Paulette and Frank long since divorced.  As the story continues we hear different points of view, which of course changes your own opinions about the characters.  I think it was genius to open the story with Paulette setting the stage, because then when you hear Frank talk it makes you rethink Paulette and her comments.  The title of the book comes from Gwen’s condition, which each of the family members see in a different way (particularly the father and mother) and each believe has impacted the family in some way.  Her condition is really not the pivotal part of the story, as it’s pretty clear that this family would have broken down anyway.

I thought this was beautifully written, I cared about the characters, and I look forward to reading her other novels (Melissa says Mrs. Kimble is just as good.)


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