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Original Essays | September 15, 2014

Lois Leveen: IMG Forsooth Me Not: Shakespeare, Juliet, Her Nurse, and a Novel



There's this writer, William Shakespeare. Perhaps you've heard of him. He wrote this play, Romeo and Juliet. Maybe you've heard of it as well. It's... Continue »
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    Juliet's Nurse

    Lois Leveen 9781476757445

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The Condition

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The Condition Cover

 

Staff Pick

The world falls apart for the privileged McKotch family when its youngest member, Gwen, is diagnosed with Turner's Syndrome. As fascinating as the diagnosis aspect of this novel is, the heart of the story is really in watching Gwen grapple with her disease as an adult. Gwen is much more than a woman with Turner's; she is a fully rounded character with her own desires and a will strong enough to withstand the many intrusions of her family. I loved this absolutely perfect novel more than I ever expected to. Jennifer Haigh will amaze.
Recommended by Dianah, Powells.com

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

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. And 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.

Review:

"Happy families are all alike," Tolstoy famously observed at the start of "Anna Karenina," but "every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." Unless, of course, you're dealing with repressed New Englanders: Then the unhappy families are pretty alike, too. We are — and I say this with only love and respect for my family and my in-laws — uptight, priggish and determined either to sublimate our anxieties... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review)

Review:

"Haigh creates a realistic family dynamic from richly drawn characters, capturing the family members' various expectations of and assumptions about one another. Compelling; highly recommended for all fiction collections." Joanna M. Burkhardt, Library Journal

Review:

"After the lovely opening, filled with genuine insight and touching lyricism, Haigh overly orchestrates her characters' lives." Kirkus Reviews

Review:

"The Condition is unsentimental, compelling, and moving, and I urge you to read it!" Andre Dubus III, New York Times bestselling author of the National Book Award finalist House of Sand and Fog

Review:

"Jennifer Haigh has written a sprawling, emotionally gripping account of one family’s troubled history, enlivened by her formidable intelligence and deep insight into her characters’ hearts and minds." Tom Perrotta, New York Times bestselling author of Little Children and Election

Synopsis:

The long-awaited third novel from the bestselling, award-winning author of Mrs. Kimble and Baker Towers explores the immutable bonds of family witnessed through one turbulent year in the lives of the McKotches.

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About the Author

Jennifer Haigh is the author of the New York Timesbestseller Baker Towers, winner of the 2006 PEN/L. L. Winship Award for outstanding book by a New England author, and Mrs. Kimble, which won the PEN/Hemingway Award for debut fiction and was a finalist for the Book Sense Book of the Year. Both novels were number one Book Sense picks. Her fiction has appeared in Granta, Ploughshares, Good Housekeeping, and elsewhere. She lives in the Boston area.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 6 comments:

Sheldon, July 25, 2009 (view all comments by Sheldon)
I found this to be a compelling read. The story had many layers, many ways to see the events of a pivotal time in the characters' lives.
I am somewhat surprised to see that reviewers have seized on the "political correctness" of Gwen, the bearer of "The Condition", Turner's Syndrome. Must all fictional characters, particularly those afflicted with a rare syndrome, be idealized?

While I was disappointed in the ending, where no loose threads remained- another form of idealization- I found the characters to be three dimensional. The plot threads were deftly woven and the descriptive writing at times lyrical.

As a former Massachusetts resident and Harvard graduate student, I found the depiction of blue-blooded attitudes and high pressure academia to be true to life as well.
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(9 of 18 readers found this comment helpful)
alansgirl, July 9, 2008 (view all comments by alansgirl)
Although this book was well written and entertaining, I agree with the other posts that it was somewhat off base in regards to Turner's Syndrome. I happen to be a 37 year-old female physician with Turner's Syndrome. I found the author's depiction of women with Turner's Syndrome as child-like and immature to be inaccurate and to a degree insulting. I am a highly functioning professional woman who happens to be short and require hormone replacement--not an 11 year-old. Also, as a physician, I hate when people seize on the stereotype that all Turner's Syndrome patients have trouble with math--I easily tackled math all the way through college level Calculus. No matter what the disease, people should not assume that all stereotypes hold true. I realize that it wasn't necessarily intentional to present Turner's Syndrome in any negative light. I'm just somewhat disappointed that what was probably the public's first widespread popular culture exposure to this somewhat rarer genetic disorder was more stereotypical than I would have preferred.
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shorty42, July 8, 2008 (view all comments by shorty42)
I agree with all of the above comments and find it very sad indeed that Ms. Haigh clearly did not thoroughly research the condition she decided to write about. I would find it hard to believe that she met with even one woman with Turner's. If she had she would have seen that we do age, we just don't get as tall as everyone else.
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(49 of 101 readers found this comment helpful)
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780060755782
Subtitle:
A Novel
Author:
Haigh, Jennifer
Author:
by Jennifer Haigh
Author:
by Jennifer Haigh
Publisher:
Harper
Subject:
General
Subject:
General Fiction
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Family
Subject:
New england
Subject:
Domestic fiction
Subject:
Psychological fiction
Edition Description:
Hardcover
Publication Date:
20080701
Binding:
Hardback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
400
Dimensions:
9.30x6.42x1.35 in. 1.51 lbs.

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

The Condition Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$9.95 In Stock
Product details 400 pages Harper - English 9780060755782 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

The world falls apart for the privileged McKotch family when its youngest member, Gwen, is diagnosed with Turner's Syndrome. As fascinating as the diagnosis aspect of this novel is, the heart of the story is really in watching Gwen grapple with her disease as an adult. Gwen is much more than a woman with Turner's; she is a fully rounded character with her own desires and a will strong enough to withstand the many intrusions of her family. I loved this absolutely perfect novel more than I ever expected to. Jennifer Haigh will amaze.

"Review" by , "Haigh creates a realistic family dynamic from richly drawn characters, capturing the family members' various expectations of and assumptions about one another. Compelling; highly recommended for all fiction collections."
"Review" by , "After the lovely opening, filled with genuine insight and touching lyricism, Haigh overly orchestrates her characters' lives."
"Review" by , "The Condition is unsentimental, compelling, and moving, and I urge you to read it!" Andre Dubus III, New York Times bestselling author of the National Book Award finalist House of Sand and Fog
"Review" by , "Jennifer Haigh has written a sprawling, emotionally gripping account of one family’s troubled history, enlivened by her formidable intelligence and deep insight into her characters’ hearts and minds." Tom Perrotta, New York Times bestselling author of Little Children and Election
"Synopsis" by , The long-awaited third novel from the bestselling, award-winning author of Mrs. Kimble and Baker Towers explores the immutable bonds of family witnessed through one turbulent year in the lives of the McKotches.
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