The Condition

The Condition

A Novel

Book - 2008
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The Condition tells the story of the McKotches, a proper New England family that comes apart during one fateful summer. The year is 1976, and the family, Frank McKotch, an eminent scientist; his pedigreed wife, Paulette; and their three beautiful children has embarked on its annual vacation at the Captain's House, the grand old family retreat on Cape Cod. One day on the beach, Frank is struck by an image he cannot forget: his thirteen-year-old daughter, Gwen, strangely infantile in her child-sized bikini, standing a full head shorter than her younger cousin Charlotte. At that moment he knows a truth that he can never again unknown something is terribly wrong with his only daughter. The McKotch family will never be the same.

Twenty years after Gwen's diagnosis with Turner's syndrome, a genetic condition that has prevented her from maturing, trapping her forever in the body of a child, all five family members are still dealing with the fallout. Each believes himself crippled by some secret pathology; each feels responsible for the family's demise. Frank and Paulette are acrimoniously divorced. Billy, the eldest son, is dutiful but distant, a handsome Manhattan cardiologist with a life built on compromise. His brother, Scott, awakens from a pot-addled adolescence to a soul-killing job, a regrettable marriage, and a vinyl-sided tract house in the suburbs. And Gwen is silent and emotionally aloof, a bright, accomplished woman who spurns any interaction with those around her. She makes peace with the hermetic life she's constructed until, well into her thirties, she falls in love for the first time. And suddenly, once again, the family's world is tilted on its axis.

Compassionate yet unflinchingly honest, witty and almost painfully astute, The Condition explores the power of family mythologies, the self-delusions, denials, and inescapable truths that forever bind fathers and mothers and siblings.

Publisher: New York :, Harper,, 2008.
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9780060755782
Branch Call Number: FIC HAIG
Characteristics: 390 pages ; 24 cm


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Jan 08, 2013

I enjoyed this novel, although not as much as Jennifer Haigh's other books. You take journeys through all the family member's lives, weaving in and out of each character's life chapter by chapter. At the end there is some sense of completeness, as the character's stories intertwine.

Oct 01, 2012

Wow, does the description of this book ever get it wrong: it covers way more than one summer, the eldest child does NOT investigate his sister's chromosomal disorder, and the mother is a control freak who above all else wants to manage her daughter's life (and everyone else's, as far as she can manage). This is a big work, covering a huge time period, and the author does a marvellous job of making it all seem immediate and real. As one reviewer on the back cover puts it, "The ailment at the centre of this remarkable novel is the human condition itself." The Condition is a great read from start to finish, thoroughly enjoyable. It is NOT about what the description here says! Instead, it first shows the McKotch family during the summer in which the father realizes there is something amiss with his daughter. The action then jumps ahead 20 years - but the reader is filled in, when and as it's appropriate, on those missing years, and how things have played out for the parents and the three children. This is a character-driven story, and Jennifer Haigh has created wonderfully complex characters for it. She is a master of nuance and detail and she has a rich story to tell. Definitely recommend.

Jun 23, 2012

Great read, not a literary masterpiece but great characters and storyline that engages you. Perfect for a summer read.

Jun 05, 2012

It starts slowly but by the end one is caught up in each of the characters and is worth the read.

Nov 19, 2008

A very enjoyable book with characters that we can all relate to within our family. It is an examination of how we are perceived by our families, our attempts to fulfill those perceptions and the often tragic outcomes for not being who you are.


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