Trauma in the Family: Accidents of Marriage by Randy Susan Meyers

cover imageJust selected as a 2015 Massachusetts Book Award Must-Read title, Accidents of Marriage by Randy Susan Meyers portrays a marriage – already a little unsteady  – and a family rocked by traumatic brain injury and its aftermath. It really puts a reader through the wringer.

In Accidents of Marriage, a professional couple – husband Ben is a public defender and wife Maddy is a social worker – and their teenage daughter Emma and two younger children are all usually stressed out with getting to where they all need to be on time, and getting ready for the next day. Ben gets angry a lot, letting off steam, and everyone is on edge much of the time. But that’s before the accident, when life could still be considered to be normal.

Chapters from Ben’s, Maddy’s, and Emma’s perspectives show different facets of the story, as the author turns it around and around for us to see all the moments we are unaware of except in hindsight, all the “if only”s.

Reading about the unraveling of a family can be painful, especially when the situations and dialogue are as realistic as in Accidents of Marriage, but I was drawn in by the story. Although it’s sad to watch the wreck of a family, even a fictional one.

The idea of Massachusetts Must Read titles is that they foster discussion; Accidents of Marriage would definitely make a great book club title. Readers could talk about the roots of problems like those Ben and Maddy faced in their marriage; about the process of recovering one’s “self” after a brain injury; about different forms of abuse; about the children in a situation like this; caregiving after an accident; and about the people in Ben and Maddy’s extended family.

Put Accidents of Marriage on your list when you’re looking for a book along the lines of Still Alice, Alice Bliss, or Anne Tyler’s latest, A Spool of Blue Thread, that is as much about the inner lives of family members struggling through grief and loss than about what happens to them and what they do.

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