Meyers puts a Boston family overwhelmed by a tragic accident under the literary microscope.
Maddy and Ben have been married for 15 years and have three children: smart-mouthed, somewhat bratty teen Emma; sensitive, intelligent Gracie; and Caleb, a quirky kid who can’t seem to keep his mouth closed. Their home in trendy Jamaica Plains appears to be in a constant state of flux, but Maddy, a social worker who's in perpetual motion, doesn’t seem capable of taming the various components of her life. That’s driven a wedge between her and her short-tempered, controlling husband. An attorney with a father whose legacy proves impossible to live up to, Ben rages through life, while Maddy spends her time trying to put out the fires. The kids sap her energy, and the heat inside their big old Victorian—with ancient wiring Ben refuses to fix so the air conditioning can be upgraded—provides fuel for their fights. The morning after another argument, Ben has an angry encounter with a fellow driver and the resulting accident puts Maddy in a coma. Through most of the book, the family tries to adjust to their new normal, with mostly disastrous results. Meyers, who has a background working with victims of domestic violence, examines the effects anger and violence can have on family members, as well as the courage that can be born from a new perspective and the lack of happily-ever-after in these real-life situations. The characters labor under intense pressure, and some crack while others rise to the challenge, giving Meyers’ tale both realism and a bittersweet quality that, in the hands of a lesser writer, could have ended up simply maudlin and contrived.
Beautifully written, poignant and thought-provoking, this novel refuses to succumb to stereotypical reader expectations, making it even more memorable.