Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Review: Accidents of Marriage by Randy Susan Meyers

Accidents of MarriageSeries: Standalone
Genre: Women's Fiction
Publisher: Atria
Publication Date: 9/2/14
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 384
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 stars

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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.

My Thoughts

Well. I can easily say that Accidents of Marriage is among the best books I've read this year.
I know that's a big statement, given that according to my GoodReads challenge, I've read way more than two hundred books in 2014. But with the emotional heft this story packed, along with its sweeping themes of marriage, sacrifice, and abuse, I know that Accidents of Marriage is one I will never, ever forget. When facing this review, I feel overwhelmed. I have so much to say about so many different pieces of the story. So bear with me, this might be a hot mess.

Accidents of Marriage challenged me in a way I didn't see coming. When I picked the book up, I knew that Maddy's husband Ben was volatile. That he was prone to outbursts that terrorized the family. I was prepared to be completely on Maddy's side - which I was. But the story is told in three point-of-view: Maddy's, Ben's and their daughter Emma's. Ben wasn't what I expected. Yes, he could be so temperamental, dismissive, and volatile, but I also saw a man who was overwhelmed by life,
expectations, disappointments. In no way am I giving a Ben a pass for his outrageous behavior, but being in his head made me see how what he thought and how he began each day with good intentions, but when set off, his actions spun out of control. Despite his flaws, I hurt for him. And the fact that he could have prevented the accident if he had controlled himself is only more on Ben's shoulders. So no, he wasn't a perfect man. He was so, so wrong in so many ways, and at moments I hated him. And yet I still believed he was at heart a good man who loved his family, and could change if he was willing to do the work. Unfortunately, he isn't open to that help until too much has been taken away.

The book was also a reminder to me to watch myself. To not throw out angry or sarcastic words simply because I'm overwhelmed. So for that, I have another reason to be grateful I picked this book up.

Though I felt enormous sympathy for everyone, the character I probably felt the most for was Emma. At fourteen, she's had way too much heaped on her, by both parents. Even before the accident, care of the younger kids was often left to her, and that came from Maddy as well as Ben. Given that both Maddy and Ben are often harried, frustrated and exhausted, this is an area in which they both failed her. No matter the convenience for a parent, that's no child's obligation. Emma is at a pivotal age when her life is shattered, leaving Emma all too often alone in her thoughts, and alone to care for the family. Information about her mom is withheld, her dad's asking her not to tell Maddy about the accident. It's all too much for this poor kid. In fact, all the kids were too often failed by the adults around  them. Blame towards their dad is being hinted at by the maternal family. Their grandmother tells them that if they don't pray hard enough, shower, that god won't heal their mom. I wanted to take poor Emma, Caleb and Gracie away from it all.

The aftermath of the accident was...if I say it was good, I sound sadistic. But it was, so in-depth and emotionally-charged. The stages of recovery from a brain injury, from post-surgical to rehab and beyond, were in-depth and written in a casual enough manner that my mind was able to comprehend how Maddy's "new brain" worked. Being in Maddy's head during recovery was brutal. She was frightened, frustrated, and so vulnerable. She struggles with not remembering much of her daily life before, relearning how to speak, cook, care for her family. She struggles with depression, mood swings and bitterness. When Maddy learns the truth about the accident, she's understandably angry, but not necessarily for the reason one might think. And as the past, the memories of her marriage and Ben's behavior come back, Maddy must decide if she's willing to live with that again. And Ben must
face how far he's willing to go, how deeply he's willing to dig, to fight for the right to be a part of his family. And true to life, there is no concrete answer, just a beginning step in the right direction.

Accidents of Marriage was a simply...amazing story. So layered and tightly woven, I could barely pull myself away until the very end. I was very much in the mood for a strong story that would consume me, and I found it. It was thought-provoking, packed an emotional punch I still haven't recovered from, and though I felt drained, it was the kind of emotional drain that leaves you smiling and in a bit of a daze. If you're looking for a big, beautiful, powerful story about a family torn apart, struggling to put the pieces back together, this is if.

Favorite Quotes:

  Anger exhausted her. She waited for the kiss of Xanax to kick in, Prince Charming bearing a sheath for her nerves.

  Maddy was the love of his life. She knew that, right? Their roots tangled around each other's so densely he didn't know how to separate them. He'd have no family without her.

  So many times he hadn't kissed her.
  He didn't know how to keep containing the pain. Missing her was a rusty blade, but no matter how it sliced, he had to keep going. Somehow he had to contain the damn pain.

  He fell on her, hungry, needing no beginning; they were ready to finish. Her legs closed around him. Maybe these tsunamis of hunger for him all came from a particular clunk in her temporal love, but again, intellect lost against emotion and he chose to believe they'd carve out this newfound desire despite the horrow. That this one bit of good came out of the bad and his guilt.

Randy Susan Meyers RANDY SUSAN MEYERS is the author of The Comfort of Lies and The Murderer’s Daughters and a finalist for the Massachusetts Book Award. Her writing is informed by her work with batterers and victims of domestic violence, as well her experience with youth impacted by street violence. She lives with her husband in Boston, where she teaches writing seminars at the Grub Street Writers’ Center. She is also a frequent contributor to The Huffington Post.

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  1. Oh, Andrea! I think that this book does what it says in the synopsis: tackles a form of abuse that isn't usually tackled. My heart aches for all parties and especially for Emma. I understand your maternal instict to want to take her away and protect her and her sibling. Im glad Ben and Maddy s story touched you so deeply and thanks for introducing this unique and emotional book to us!

  2. What a fantastic review. I didn't think I wanted to read this book before, but I feel like I have to now. Thank you for posting about it!

  3. Wow! Your favorite book of the year? That is such a high praise!
    It's not the kind of book I normally vacillate towards, but I know you like these kinds of book that explore life during a marriage.
    Gorgeous review! :)

  4. Very intense. Deep too. Love your review babe!

  5. Books that consume me are the best kind! I haven't heard of this one but it truly sounds amazing and I'm so happy you loved it. Great review, Andrea :)

  6. Okay... so now I think I HAVE to read this book. You review just makes it sound amazing - and one of your favorite books of the year? Man, oh man, I think I need this. Great review! :)

    Jules @ The Book of Jules

  7. This sounds like it is one of those books to pack an emotional punch. It is so clear how much this one effected you and I know I'll have to put it on my TBR now. Wonderful review Andrea!

  8. I do enjoy a marriage in crisis book at times. I've seen a few books lately that I might want to pick up. Brandie & Arlene just reviewed one that I'm seriously thinking of: After I Do. I'll put this on the list, too. Sort reminds me of Regarding Henry (the movie with Harrison Ford), but opposite in a few aspects. Wonderful review, Andrea! :)

  9. Oh wow Andrea. That sounds like quite the read! I don't know that I'm in the right place for it at the moment but definitely one I'll keep in mind.

  10. In depth and emotional as well as a stamp of best from you makes it sound awesome

  11. Wow. This looks like an emotional one. I'm glad it was one of the best reads of the year for you.

  12. Beautiful review, Andrea. I can tell how much you were affected by this story and that's the mark of a great book. :) I think I'll be one-clicking this one.


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