Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Condition-Jennifer Haigh

The Condition
Jennifer Haigh
Harper, Jun 30 2009. $14.99
ISBN: 9780060755799

In 1976, the marriage between Paulette and Frank McKotch is teetering on the brink of collapse because he wants sex and lots of it and she doesn’t. They are spending the summer together with their three kids at Cape Cod with plans to sell the beach cottage when the vacation ends. However both are stunned to learn their thirteen years old daughter Gwen has been diagnosed with Turner Syndrome, a chromosome deficiency that keeps an adult in the body of a pre- puberty child. Gwen’s parents disagree about how to proceed; Frank seeks medical answers while Paulette wants to keep Gwen safe.

Two decades later, Frank and Paulette long divorced have never married again. Their son Bill lives with his beloved male partner and works as a cardiologist in Manhattan, but hides his sexual preference from his parents. Their youngest child Scott teaches school and is married with two kids. Gwen lives alone working at a museum. On a vacation, she falls in love with her guide. However, Paulette, still protecting Gwen, orders Scott to find his sister and bring her home. His mission forces each of the five McKotches to relook their relationships and their lives.

This is an intriguing character driven tale that looks deeply at how a health condition impacts everyone in a family; even one that is dysfunctional. The cast drives the story line as each seems real though in many ways the rest of the family besides Gwen show their traits by how they act towards her. The key to this touching tale is the way Jennifer Haigh avoids turning THE CONDITION into a five tissue box soap opera; as readers will feel for Gwen who demands no tears as she is a self sufficient adult.

Harriet Klausner

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