Synopses & Reviews
Separated by a decade and 200 points on their SAT scores, Jack and Connor Reed have a life in the Cleveland suburbs held together by spit and Chinese takeout. With his self-absorbed, over-the-hill parents dead by his twenty-fifth birthday, Jack has abandoned his own plans and returned to his parents' house where he works marathon hours at his late father's law firm, beds young paralegals, and throws money and advice at his teenage brother. Connor meanwhile wants nothing more than to leave the Midwest, start a family early, and do everything the way his parents didn't. But over the years, through the car crashes and bad breakups, the illnesses and illicit affairs, both realize that while circumstances are sometimes beyond control, there are always choices to be made.
Family and Other Accidents tells the story of these brothers from their viewpoints as well as from those of their girlfriends, wives, and children. It is a story of what it means to be a family, to love unconditionally in the face of confusion, anger, and regret. Shari Goldhagen's debut is a finely nuanced, universally resonant portrait of the ties, however strange or awkward, that bind families together through the decades.
"Goldhagen demonstrates solid understanding of many of the tools of writing....[A] solid novel, with clear authorial intention behind every page." San Francisco Chronicle
"This novel of brotherly love...explores the intersection of domestic urgencies and erotic requirements. The dialogue is witty, the sex is constant, and the wounded, small child inside each character is persuasively wrought. Shari Goldhagen's writing is sympathetic and smart." Frederick Busch, author of North and The Night Inspector
"Jack and Connor are by turns joyous and sad, wise and foolish, fragile and tough, kind and mean, even cruel but they are always human, always fresh, always surprising, always lovable even when we least want to love them." Bill Roorbach, author of The Smallest Color and Big Bend
"Goldhagen does a wonderful job of describing the familial bond and all the ups and downs and oddities that we consider family." Library Journal
"Where the author excels is at the level of moral choice: Her characters struggle toward a sense of what it means to be an adult, one who takes responsibility for another's well-being." Kirkus Reviews
About the Author
Shari Goldhagen holds an MFA from Ohio State and a journalism degree from Northwestern. A fellow of both Yaddo and MacDowell, she currently lives in New York City, where she has stalked celebrities for magazines, including The National Enquirer, Life & Style, and Celebrity Living.
Reading Group Guide
1. What do you imagine the relationship between Connor and Jack was like when both of their parents were alive? What about when only their mother was alive?
2. What does this title mean? What “accidents” happen, and do you agree that they are accidents? Or are Jack and Connor fully in control of their destinies regardless of their pasts?
3. Where do you think the climax of the novel occurs and why? Do Jack and Connor ever reach any understandings about each other? If so, what might some of those understandings be?
4. What motivates Jacks and Connors infidelities? Are those motivations the same or different?
5. What effect does the irregular passage of time between chapters have on the plot? Why did the author write it this way instead of in a straightforward, linear way? Similiarly, what effect do the multiple narrators have on the movement of the plot?
6. Jack and Connor view themselves as very different people, but in what ways are they more similar than they think? In what ways are they truly different?
7. By the end of the novel, Jack and Connor have one son and two daughters, respectively. In what ways does the next generation of Reeds carry on the family traditions and the characteristics of their parents?
8. The author gives Mona, Laine, and Kathy the opportunity to narrate chapters and give their perspectives. How do the narrative, plot, and perspectives differ from Jacks and Connors when the women are given the narrative power?
9. How do you think that Mona and Laine feel about each other? About the others marriage?
10. What changes Jories perspective at the end of the novel? Is it just fear or a genuine maturing? Can you speculate on what happens in each of the other characters lives after the last page of the novel?