[Review] Accidents of Marriage by Randy Susan Meyers

Posted 2 September, 2014 by DLWhite in Reviews, Writers Read 0 Comments

Accidents of Marriage Book Cover Accidents of Marriage
Randy Susan Meyers
Adult Fiction, Literary Fiction
Atria Books
September 2, 2014
NetGalley, Atria

Accidents of Marriage explores a topic rarely shown in fiction: the destruction left in the wake of spouse’s verbal fury. Ben never meant to hurt Maddy. He never imagined his recklessness would lead to tragedy. 

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 – which works to keep a fragile peace – 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.

Randy Susan Meyers takes us inside the hearts and minds of her characters, alternating among the perspectives of Maddy, Ben, and their fourteen-year-old daughter. Accidents of Marriage is a provocative and stunning novel that will resonate deeply with women from all walks of life, ultimately revealing the challenges of family, faith, and forgiveness.

ACCIDENTS OF MARRIAGE explores a topic rarely shown in fiction: the damaging effects of a spouse’s emotional abuse

This book reminds me so much of Lisa Genova’s science and medicine based novels. In Lisa’s book Left Neglected, she details a woman’s struggles with putting her life back together after a near fatal accident that resulted in a brain injury. I find such stories extremely interesting, so even though this book is mainly a story about a marriage falling apart, I decided to read it because adding a traumatic injury on top of a festering and failing marriage just makes for some good dramatic reading.

Maddie and Ben are in love… madly in love but recently can’t seem to keep things on an even keel. Their marriage is good, but…. and they’ve been living on the ‘but…’ more often than they care to admit lately. Ben has a terrible temper that has worsened as time has gone on, resorting to screaming and throwing objects in his tirades. Maddie has turned to what my friends and I call “Better Living Through Chemistry” to make it through life. Her teen, Emma and two younger children, on top of her demanding social work job keep her in a constant state of awareness and ‘on edge’. Maddie just can’t keep things straight, can’t do anything right and it’s all she can do to keep the peace. 

In the pouring rain through Boston traffic and high speed, reckless driving, Maddie’s life transitions in the blink of an eye from worrying about lunches and her small group meeting of battered women and whether or not her husband, a prominent attorney, will come home in a decent mood. Instead, Maddie is tasked with learning basic skills and brain function again, even how to speak in more than four word sentences. How to cook, how to drive, how to live. Due to her brain injury, Maddie is different. She says what’s on her mind with no filter, which is a turnaround from the pre-accident Maddie that just tried to get along.

Ben is an angel, dedicated and calm and understanding. And there’s a reason for that. He doesn’t want Maddie to discover the real cause of her accident, why she’s broken and put back together. Ben wants to be the hero of this story, but when Maddie discovers that it wasn’t just a simple accident, that Ben’s temper had a strong hand in her current state, Maddie has difficult, life changing decisions to make. And so does Ben.

Some parts of this book were extremely engaging. I had the largest problem with the conclusion to the story. I thought I would find it cathartic to see Maddie finally stand up for herself, but I didn’t dislike Ben enough to want a complete dissolution. I wanted him to learn his lesson… which I felt he did. I wanted him to WANT to make things better, for life to be different, because the family had gone through so much already. 

It’s difficult to review this book without giving much of it away. Suffice it to say that it’s highly emotional and expressive– I felt Maddie’s pain and sorrow and frustration. I sometimes sympathized with Ben and with Emma, who bore the Lion’s Share of care while Maddie was recovering… so much for a 14 year old to handle. The pacing was slow enough to agonize with the family, yet quick enough to keep the pages turning to see just what happened next. This is a novel of a breaking apart but also a putting back together and though the conclusion seemed… abrupt while also vague, it also sparked a bit of hope that this family will heal. 

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