Saturday, July 26, 2008

Review: The Condition by Jennifer Haigh

"To anyone who knew Turners syndrome, her condition was obvious. She was short but not petite; her broad chest seemed to be sized for a much taller person. Her short legs were thick and muscular. She had the powerful build of an Olympic child gymnast: the narrow hips, the shield chest."

Such describes Gwen, the middle child (and only daughter) in the McKotch family, sentenced to live her life as an adult forever stuck in a child's body.

At first glance, it appears that this is the condition for which the book is named...yet, when it comes down to it, "the condition" really describes the state of a fractured family, one torn apart by a physical condition yet remaining broken by emotional ones.

As the story begins, in 1976, the seed of "there's something wrong with Gwen" has just been planted, as the girl's smallness, at age 12, is suddenly painfully obvious. Life changes as the family knows it...this would be the last summer at the family's Cape Cod summer home, the last summer Paulette and Frank McKotch would be married, the last summer that everything would be normal.

Fast forward 20 years, where the bulk of the book takes place...Frank and Paulette McKotch are divorced, having not been able to weather the storm over their daughter's diagnosis and how to treat her. Oldest brother Billy is a doctor in New York, estranged from his father and carefully close to his mother. Youngest brother Scotty is the family's disappointment, long since relegated to the role as underachiever.

Gwen is living in her carefully constructed world, working in the dark basement of a Pittsburgh museum, where her size goes unnoticed. She's guarded and emotionally stunted, until a fateful and unexpected scuba diving trip shows her that she is capable of living large, despite her body.

This is a compelling book about how the condition of one child can forever alter the course of the family as a whole. Told from each family member's perspective, this engaging novel charts a family's journey toward understanding one another for who they are. I'm always a fan of family-related dramas, and this one didn't disappoint.


readerville said...

I hadn't heard of this one before, and now it looks like I'll be adding it to my TBR. Thanks for another great review!

lisamm said...

Great review! I remember reading another review over at Booking Mama recently that was equally good. Sounds like a must-read to me. I have a daughter who is a real challenge and makes everything about her, and it definitely affects everyone in our family (not the same, because it's all emotional and not physical, but still..) The book sounds great. Thanks!

thebluestockingsociety said...

I heard about this book on NPR, and your review confirmed my desire to read it. Thanks!
Jessica @