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.
Five years after their father dies of a heart attack, Jack and Connor Reed's mother dies of an aneurysm, and Jack, 25, returns to Cleveland to take care of 15-year-old Connor and to work in his late father's corporate law firm. This debut novel from Goldhagen, a celebrity reporter, spirals episodically through two-plus decades of Connor and Jack's fraught fraternity, showing the aftermath of loss in devastatingly efficient snapshots. Goldhagen cuts smoothly between the two men's perspectives, and widens out to include Jack's wife, Mona; Connor's wife, Laine; and, later, their children. Domestic disconnection and dissatisfaction are the rule, with marriages and pregnancies occurring more by chance than choice. Unsentimental and emotionally riveting, this is a portrait of the love between people who are not particularly good at loving. Even when Connor gets ill and tells Jack, "I tell everyone you're the only parent I ever had," their connection remains inarticulate.