I just finished Jennifer Haigh’s book, The Condition, as I patiently waited for JP to finish Mockingjay, the third book of the Hunger Games trilogy. Firstly, I will say that Haigh does an amazing job with family stories … you know, those that intertwine and co-mingle so much that you immediately believe them because it’s exactly what a family functions like, it’s abnormal-normal families at it’s best. This tale is about the McKotch family: Frank, the father is a dedicated scientist and lacking in normal compassion at points in his familial relationships; Paulette is the neurotic mother from upper class roots who married young and dropped out of college, now trying to find herself ; Billy is the oldest McKotch “child” who grows up to become a successful doctor and struggles with accepting himself and the life he leads; Gwen, the middle child, has Turner’s syndrome, a condition that prevents her from maturing physically is provides a life long battle of her freedom as an adult and people who are always looking for the “best” for her; and lastly is Scott, the youngest McKotch sibling and the one that has most of the “short-comings” in his life.
I was expecting the story to be more about Gwen and about the family surrounding her; her “condition”, their trials and tribulations and Haigh touches on that – it’s always part of the back story especially for the lives of her parents, but Haigh dives deeper into each member of the family’s respective lives to paint a separate story of each individual character. It all begins in the summer of 1976 when the McKotch family joins Paulette’s siblings on their Cape Cod summer home. It seems to be a summer like any other – rivalries here and there, families spending an annual weekend together that seems to grow less and less as tradition and more and more like expectation. This is the summer when Frank and Paulette begin to notice Gwen is different than her cousins of the same age – she hasn’t hit puberty like the other girls and this is the summer that changes their lives forever as Paulette tries to cope with Gwen’s condition and Frank goes on a mission to cure it (it’s incurable).
The most interesting character is, of course, Gwen. Stuck in a world where her parents (mother) refuse to let her grow up – Gwen leaves home to find herself and create some distance so that she can have a normal adult life. I wish Haigh touched more on Gwen’s life, especially at the end. A lot of the story seemed to surround Frank and he wasn’t nearly on my top three of most interesting characters in this novel. Overall though, it was a good read about family ties.
NOW! Onto the last book of the Hunger Games series: Mockingjay! YESSSS!!!