Title: Accidents of Marriage by Randy Susan Meyers
Publisher: Atria Books
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction
Length: 368 pages
Book Rating: B
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
From the bestselling author of The Comfort of Lies, an engrossing look at the darker side of a marriage—and at how an ordinary family responds to an extraordinary crisis.
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 by Randy Susan Meyers is a heart wrenching and insightful novel about the devastating effects of living with someone who is verbally abusive and prone to violent outbursts resulting from poor anger management. The consequences are oftentimes tragic and this eye-opening, poignant story is a timely reminder that anyone can become a victim of domestic violence.
Maddy and Ben are juggling the demands of parenthood with demanding, high stress careers. Maddy, a social worker, is the main caregiver of the couple’s three children, fourteen year old Emma, nine year old Gracie and seven year old Caleb. She is wrung out and exhausted by trying to keep up with household duties, the kid’s frenetic schedules and her emotionally draining job. Maddy is always on edge, waiting to find out which version of Ben is going to return home each night: will it be the loving and devoted husband? Or will it be the derisive, condescending husband whose verbal abuse often ends in physical, violent explosions of anger? After a couple of days that are more stressful than normal, Ben’s anger boils over into road rage that results in a horrible car accident that leaves Maddy in a coma. The doctors are cautiously optimistic about her eventual recovery, but in the meantime, the family slowly disintegrates under the stresses of everyday life and the terrible uncertainty of Maddy’s future.
As a social worker, no one knows the warming signs of abusive relationships better than Maddy, but it is amazing how blinded she is to Ben’s destructive behavior. She makes excuses, blames herself and carefully censors herself in an effort to keep from provoking his temper. She goes so far as to point out that he has an anger management problem and provides him with information to try to help his anger under control. Maddy has moments of introspection where she admits that he has problems but instead of taking the advice she gives her clients, she never seriously considers leaving him.
Ben is a self-centered narcissist who bullies and belittles Maddy into compliance. Although they both have fulltime careers, Ben deems his the most important and he refuses to help Maddy manage the children’s hectic schedules or take on any household responsibilities. Ben works long hours and despite his frequent absences, he is hypercritical of Maddy’s parenting decisions. He is incapable of accepting responsibility for his actions and in the aftermath of the car accident, Ben repeatedly downplays his role in the accident.
Ben and Maddy’s children are the unintended victims of their parents’ dysfunctional relationship but the extent of the damage is not seen until after the accident. As the oldest, Emma is forced into taking care of her younger siblings and household duties while Maddy is in the hospital. She loves Gracie and Caleb, but as the days stretch into weeks, she is resentful of the responsibility she shoulders and she begins looking for relief from the unending stress in all the wrong places. Poor Gracie and Caleb are lonely, confused and scared as they try to understand the drama unfolding around them.
Accidents of Marriage is an emotionally compelling family drama that is raw, gritty and breathtakingly realistic. The characters are well-drawn with all too human flaws and imperfections. The storyline is absolutely heartbreaking but Randy Susan Meyers deftly handles difficult topics with an amazing amount of sensitivity. A riveting and highly complex novel that I highly recommend.