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Book Review: The Condition
Jennifer Haigh
Cover image of the product The Condition by Jennifer Haigh
The Condition
Jennifer Haigh
2008 / HarperCollins
Review by Kathy Parsons
It’s been a while since I enjoyed reading a book as much as I enjoyed The Condition, a novel that tells the story of The McKotches from the viewpoint of each member of the immediate family. The stories are told in narrative form rather than from the first person, but Jennifer Haigh is able to step into the skin of each of the characters, bringing them to life as flawed but abundantly human beings, doing the best they can with their lots in life. The title is both specific and general, referring to Gwen, the daughter, having a medical condition known as Turner’s Syndrome. The irony is that all of the members of the McKotch clan have a variety of “conditions,” not the least of which is the “human” condition. The book often reminded me of one of my favorite novels, Jonathan Franzen’s “The Corrections,” although it isn’t nearly as funny - or intended to be. While each of the characters commits transgressions that hurt or at least bother the others, it is never out of spite, and there are no “bad guys.” Haigh is able to explain why each character is the way he or she is, and by the end of the book, each is in a better place emotionally, if not necessarily within the confines of the family. Love plays a very big part in the plot, but not just romantic love or family love - there is also a love of career, of tradition, of life itself. The intertwining lives have many twists and turns, and none of the characters know the full story of any of the others - much like life. Incorrect assumptions are made by everyone, often with disastrous results, but that’s what makes the book such a delight to read - and so true to life. If you enjoy character-driven novels with a lot of heart, give this one a try.
July 31, 2008