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Accidents of Marriage: A Novel de Randy…
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Accidents of Marriage: A Novel (edició 2015)

de Randy Susan Meyers (Autor)

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2052599,958 (3.63)No n'hi ha cap
Maddy is a social worker trying to balance her career and three children. Years ago, she fell in love with Ben, a public defender, drawn to his fiery passion, but now he's lashing out at her during his periodic verbal furies. She vacillates between tiptoeing around him and asserting herself for the sake of their kids, until the rainy day when they're together in the car and Ben's volatile temper gets the best of him, leaving Maddy in the hospital fighting for her life.… (més)
Títol:Accidents of Marriage: A Novel
Autors:Randy Susan Meyers (Autor)
Informació:Washington Square Press (2015), Edition: Reprint, 368 pages
Col·leccions:La teva biblioteca
Etiquetes:No n'hi ha cap

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Accidents of Marriage de Randy Susan Meyers

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I read "Accidents of Marriage" immediately after finishing Meyers' earlier book, "The Comfort of Lies." I was unimpressed with "The Comfort of Lies" but had bought both books together, unable to decide which storyline held more appeal, and since I thought I saw promise in the first, I went ahead with reading "Accidents of Marriage." I wish I had not wasted the time.

First and foremost, this book might as well be a continuation of "The Comfort of Lies." The setting is the same (right down to the specific neighborhoods in Boston, not even just the city itself), the characters are the same, and they're doing only very slightly different things. I honestly kept waiting for characters from "The Comfort of Lies" to make cameo appearances while shopping for groceries or something.

There are main characters in both books who do social work; everybody seems to live in Jamaica Plain, a neighborhood in Boston; all the women are using Xanax and other drugs inappropriately; both books flirt with religion, particularly mixed marriages; token bits of Jewish culture are thrown into both stories; the characters have complicated relationships with their parents that are mentioned, but never explored; gold filigree lockets (three different lockets) are mentioned between the two books; both books have a character named 'Caroline' being called 'Caro'; the same obscure children's book (The Family Nobody Wanted) was mentioned in BOTH books . . . I could go on and on. At one point in each book, the characters eat at restaurants that have amber drinking glasses. I don't think they're meant to be the same restaurant (though I guess they might have been, but that's a whole different complaint). How common is it really for restaurants to have amber stemware? I can't think of any restaurant I've ever been to (and I'm a foodie!) that had amber glasses. I couldn't decide if the author had just taken the common writers' advice to "write what you know" too literally or had difficulty remembering what she had previously written. In short, if you liked her first book, you'll probably love this one, since she's just put the same characters into a different situation.

As with her earlier work, Meyers' failed to bring her characters to life in this book. It is clear that she has them fully developed in her mind, but they don't come across the page for the reader. Often, she would reveal little facts about her characters in odd places. In the beginning of the book, Maddy, the protagonist (if she can be called that, since she spent a good third of the book in a coma) is portrayed as a typical working mom. There is mention of her making dinners, doing laundry, shuttling the kids to and from activities . . . and then, in one of the very last chapters, we learn that she never bakes (she cooks dinner, but not desserts apparently). This seems so incredibly odd to me (are there really people who cook, but NEVER bake anything?) and it is tossed into the story as though we already know this about Maddy. There are several other instances of this kind of detail being inserted haphazardly into the story far too late in the writing.

On page 272, we learn that Gracie, the youngest daughter, has become obsessed with fantastical stories since her mother's accident and that her grandmother can barely keep up with her desire to read them. This never comes across earlier in the book. In fact, there is no mention, ever, of Gracie reading anything magical, of her needing an "escape" she might get from fantasy, or of her grandmother buying her these books. Yet, the information is tossed in as if the readers should already know this about her. It's stranger still because there are similarly revealed bits of information about Gracie reading a biography of Florence Nightingale and she dresses as a nurse for Halloween. Either scenario is plausible--a little girl becoming obsessed with caretakers after her mother spends months in the hospital or, a little girl needing the escape a fantastical world could provide--but together, they seem to disagree with one another. After the first and only mention of the fantasy books, I was left thinking, 'wait, what? I thought Gracie was into nurses.'

There are numerous references to past events that have never been mentioned before. This is a common writer's tool and normally would provide needed backstory or ambiance to a scene, but the way in which they are spliced into this story is jarring. They always seem out of place, or as if they are meant to reference something we, the readers, already know about. For example, when Maddy is comatose, Ben talks to her about "anything he thought would reach her," specifically, "how they'd snuck into the bathroom to make love when they'd gone away for that week with her parents and all the kids." I think it's the use of "the" and "that." Instead, the sentence should be: "how they'd snuck into A bathroom to make love when they'd gone away for A week with her parents and all the kids." If it had been phrased in the latter way, it would be clear that the reader doesn't already know about this particular story. I could be nitpicking, but this kind of thing drives me crazy when I'm reading.

I wish I had known before starting this book that the majority of the story would not be narrated by Maddy, but by Ben (Maddy's husband) and their fourteen-year-old daughter, Emma. If I wanted to read a book from a fourteen-year-old's perspective, I would shop the young adult section. Other readers seemed to enjoy Emma, but I found her to be a whiny, entitled and utterly boring little brat. I was wholeheartedly disgusted when Meyers' chose to write her as a budding prescription drug addict. (Her initial foray into Ritalin was another item that was tossed into the story as if we should already know about it.)

I shouldn't have been surprised though, since the characters' in Meyers' last book also waxed poetic about the glories of prescription drugs (and alcohol). None can top Maddy, though, who keeps pill bottles stashed all over her house to make her feel "safe" in her mildly-abusive marriage. At one point near the end of the book, we're provided with a complete list of the drugs Maddy stashes: Ambien, Lorazepam, Valium, Klonopin, Xanax, Lunesta, Percoset, and Librium. I'm married to a pharmacist, who assures me that there really are people who take this many mood stabilizers and sedatives, but I found it wholly unbelievable (and disgusting). Meyers' writes about the bitter taste of Xanax with relish and her characters apparently need anti-anxiety meds to get through sex with their husbands . . . yet none of them end up divorced by the end of the book.

I found it particularly disturbing that only the women are written as drug-abusers. Is this what Meyers' thinks the average woman is like? Not all of us need to be heavily medicated to get through life. Nathan (from "The Comfort of Lies") and Ben both have reason to take anti-depressants and I'd almost support Ben in a decision to take something that would help with his unstable moods, but not one male character is written taking anything more serious than aspirin; the men don't even drink heavily.

Ben is a totally unlikable character and yet you're forced to experience at least half the story from his perspective. I think Meyers did a good job getting into his mindset and portraying the way he sees his side of every rant, but it didn't make him any more tolerable. Even though he's a successful lawyer, someone whose profession absolutely requires him to remain cool and reasonable under intense pressure, he's unable to control his temper at all when with his family. I'll touch more on his outbursts in a moment, but I wanted to point out that he is written throughout the book as being wildly mercurial. At first, I made notes of all the times he abruptly changed his mind/mood, (*SPOILER ALERT* For example: going from gazing lovingly at a picture of his wife to having an affair with an intern in the space of three paragraphs and, in one scene, mentions wanting desperately to be with his kids instead of at work, only to "happily" hand them off for the night to their grandparents a paragraph later) but after reviewing, I think perhaps the author did this intentionally, as a character trait. If so, it's actually quite well done.

In the earliest chapters of the book, Ben's worst outburst is described as an incident when he threw or kicked a bottle of liquid laundry detergent across a room, smashing it into a wall. Meyers' writes that Ben "scared himself" with that incident and afterward made small efforts to improve his temper. But, later in the book (actually peppered throughout the book) many more incidents are mentioned where his tantrums were far more severe and dangerous. He apparently punched their kitchen counter so hard that it cracked and had to be replaced; deliberately grabbed an heirloom of Maddy's and threw it across the room, shattering it; shakes Caleb (his youngest child) violently, to the point that Maddy had to intervene to protect her son; and also chases Emma (oldest daughter) through the house, yelling and ranting, because she broke a pen. How is the laundry detergent worse than these things, especially the child abuse?! I think Meyers' hadn't yet invented these other incidents in her mind when she wrote about the detergent and then failed to go back and correct that scene so that Maddy describes one of these, obviously more serious, tantrums as the "worst."

Other things that bothered me: Maddy professes to still love Ben while he is abusing her and his children (though not physically) and despite needing drugs to make love to him. I just don't buy that. It would have been better to write her afraid to leave/be on her own/"fail" at marriage, anything more plausible than believing she is still in love with him.

Gracie is constantly being called fat, even though she is described as being only mildly chubby or stocky. All the female characters are obsessed with their weight and fitness, while the men are described as "softening around the middle" and likewise. I hate that the author is further indoctrinating women with the belief that they must battle against every ounce gained while they're husbands can become comfortably pudgy without censure. Way to empower women and teach them to love their bodies!

Maddy's sister Vanessa is the worst cliche I think I have ever encountered in a book. She was absolutely obnoxious and the things she says/does would make more sense if she was the stereotypical catty "frenemy" rather than Maddy's allegedly-devoted sister.

I am something of a name nerd, so Meyers' naming choices bothered me a great deal, in both books. I could not stand the juxtaposition of super commonplace names like Maddy, Ben, Emma, Caleb, Gracie, Jake, Anne, Zach, from all of the main characters to obscure/unusual names like Vanessa, Ursula, and Melody. Ursula and Melody?! How do those two sibling names go together at all? The only connection seems to be an obscure reference to Disney's The Little Mermaid; in fact, I wouldn't be surprised if that is exactly where Meyers' came up with the names. I also absolutely hated that Maddy's best friend Kath is called only "Kath." Is she Katherine, Kathleen, Kathy? In my mind, it's fine to use nicknames in dialogue, or if the name is a plot element, but Kath was called exclusively by her nickname for no apparent reason. And, as I mentioned earlier, Meyers' seems to have a real love of the Carolines-called-Caro.

The investigation into the car accident was scattered through the pages in bits and snatches of conversation. I believe Meyers' wanted to build some suspense for her readers, hoping we might worry about whether or not Ben would be tried for driving to endanger. Instead, it came across as an afterthought and it dragged on far too long. (*SPOILER ALERT*) It was months after the accident that Ben found out the other driver was drunk, when, really, that would have come to light immediately after the accident. I thought the whole investigation was trumped-up drama, unnecessary to the plot, and Ben's easy escape from any culpability was likewise an easy escape for the author.

In short, this book is a far inferior effort to Meyer's earlier work, "The Comfort of Lies." I wouldn't recommend either book to anyone I know and I will never attempt reading another book written by the author. Again with this book, I think it's intended audience is the chick-lit reader who wants something with a little more depth and that is definitely not me. I also cannot help dreading anyone other than an American reading this book and feeling as though they have gained insight into American lives from it--dear lord, please let the rest of the world know that not all American women are like these characters!

Two stars because I managed to finish it, rather than tossing it aside. ( )
  hlkate | Oct 12, 2020 |
Accidents of Marriage by Randy Susan Meyers is a heart wrenching and insightful novel about the devastating effects of living with someone who is verbally abusive and prone to violent outbursts resulting from poor anger management. The consequences are oftentimes tragic and this eye-opening, poignant story is a timely reminder that anyone can become a victim of domestic violence.

Maddy and Ben are juggling the demands of parenthood with demanding, high stress careers. Maddy, a social worker, is the main caregiver of the couple's three children, fourteen year old Emma, nine year old Gracie and seven year old Caleb. She is wrung out and exhausted by trying to keep up with household duties, the kid's frenetic schedules and her emotionally draining job. Maddy is always on edge, waiting to find out which version of Ben is going to return home each night: will it be the loving and devoted husband? Or will it be the derisive, condescending husband whose verbal abuse often ends in physical, violent explosions of anger? After a couple of days that are more stressful than normal, Ben's anger boils over into road rage that results in a horrible car accident that leaves Maddy in a coma. The doctors are cautiously optimistic about her eventual recovery, but in the meantime, the family slowly disintegrates under the stresses of everyday life and the terrible uncertainty of Maddy's future.

As a social worker, no one knows the warming signs of abusive relationships better than Maddy, but it is amazing how blinded she is to Ben's destructive behavior. She makes excuses, blames herself and carefully censors herself in an effort to keep from provoking his temper. She goes so far as to point out that he has an anger management problem and provides him with information to try to help his anger under control. Maddy has moments of introspection where she admits that he has problems but instead of taking the advice she gives her clients, she never seriously considers leaving him.

Ben is a self-centered narcissist who bullies and belittles Maddy into compliance. Although they both have fulltime careers, Ben deems his the most important and he refuses to help Maddy manage the children's hectic schedules or take on any household responsibilities. Ben works long hours and despite his frequent absences, he is hypercritical of Maddy's parenting decisions. He is incapable of accepting responsibility for his actions and in the aftermath of the car accident, Ben repeatedly downplays his role in the accident.

Ben and Maddy's children are the unintended victims of their parents' dysfunctional relationship but the extent of the damage is not seen until after the accident. As the oldest, Emma is forced into taking care of her younger siblings and household duties while Maddy is in the hospital. She loves Gracie and Caleb, but as the days stretch into weeks, she is resentful of the responsibility she shoulders and she begins looking for relief from the unending stress in all the wrong places. Poor Gracie and Caleb are lonely, confused and scared as they try to understand the drama unfolding around them.

Accidents of Marriage is an emotionally compelling family drama that is raw, gritty and breathtakingly realistic. The characters are well-drawn with all too human flaws and imperfections. The storyline is absolutely heartbreaking but Randy Susan Meyers deftly handles difficult topics with an amazing amount of sensitivity. A riveting and highly complex novel that I highly recommend. ( )
  kbranfield | Feb 3, 2020 |
I thought this was a pretty good story involving a husband with severe anger management issues, his wife who uses pills to cope with the situation, and 3 vulnerable kids affected by it all. Based on this one, I'll probably check out this author's other books. ( )
  flourgirl49 | Nov 24, 2017 |
I received an ARC through Goodreads.
For the most part I enjoyed reading this book. It was interesting to see things from Maddy, Ben and Emma's point of view.

An interesting story of how one accident changed the lives of everyone. You can feel the characters lash out, their emotional state of mind and struggling to come to terms with everything. Emotional abuse and what is borderline physical assault is what Ben regularly dishes out, leaving Maddy and the family to tip toe around him, before and for the most part after the accident. Maddy as a social worker usually deal with similar situations at work yet she shuts her eye at what is happening in her own home, thinking that it's just a one time thing and he's still a good man.

One thing I didn't like was how one dimensional and forgettable most of the secondary characters are. Like we are suddenly introduced to the extended family and I keep getting the characters mixed up because they aren't memorable.

Another thing, while we do get to see both Maddy and Ben's side of the story, I didn't like either of them. Actually for the most part I didn't like Ben's character much at all, he started off as a little egotistical but busy and somewhat decent guy...until his anger surfaced. And Maddy, she seems like a lovely person trying to help her clients/patients out while trying to keep harmony at home, but I didn't like how docile she was and passive around Ben. After the accident though, I did feel for her and liked her better while she tried hard to make progress with her recovery.

I did like how the ending wasn't a total cliche. Of course I want Maddy and Ben to stay married after everything that they have been through, but I totally understand and applaud Maddy for making a stand and wanting Ben to actually work on his anger management and focus more on others not just solely on himself and also for wanting to be independent on working towards getting herself back on her feet What happens after the book ends, leaves us the readers to decide, but I like that a glimmer of hope exists for the family. ( )
  Dream24 | Jan 6, 2016 |
Magnificent! Meyers writes superbly, weaving together so tightly the fabric of the Illica's lives that we feel every moment of anxiety, pressure and stress, until it explodes in a caustic accident that will forever change the threads of this family. Throughout Maddy's experience and recovery, Meyers meets us with suspense, heartbreak, humor and hope. She takes these paradoxical elements, along with an under-explored topic, and blends them so naturally that the vivacity of the family members shines through in an amazing novel. Do not miss this one! ( )
  KimMcReads | Jul 15, 2015 |
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Maddy is a social worker trying to balance her career and three children. Years ago, she fell in love with Ben, a public defender, drawn to his fiery passion, but now he's lashing out at her during his periodic verbal furies. She vacillates between tiptoeing around him and asserting herself for the sake of their kids, until the rainy day when they're together in the car and Ben's volatile temper gets the best of him, leaving Maddy in the hospital fighting for her life.

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