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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Mona understands the wounded impulse to make the loudest noise in your power..."
Beware. This book is a sleeper. What first appears a simple family drama, two brothers facing life with both parents' dead in a short period of time, is actually a moving account of the nature of loss, the fragility of emotional connections and the importance of family. When their mother dies just five years after their father, Connor Reed, only fifteen, is left in the...
Published on April 4, 2006 by Luan Gaines

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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Gaps in Time
Goldhagen's "Family and Other Accidents" zips through decades of the lives of the Reed boys. Jack Reed, older brother of Connor, is thrown into the father role after both their parents die in two unrelated deaths. He does "the best he can" and thus this depressing tale unfolds.

The reader follows both Jack and Connor as they fumble through life. Connor is first...
Published on March 19, 2007 by A. Preoteasa


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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Mona understands the wounded impulse to make the loudest noise in your power...", April 4, 2006
This review is from: Family and Other Accidents: A Novel (Hardcover)
Beware. This book is a sleeper. What first appears a simple family drama, two brothers facing life with both parents' dead in a short period of time, is actually a moving account of the nature of loss, the fragility of emotional connections and the importance of family. When their mother dies just five years after their father, Connor Reed, only fifteen, is left in the care of his handsome older brother, Jack. A young man following in his father's footsteps in an Ohio law firm, Jack is unprepared for the responsibility, a decade older than Connor. Connor grows into manhood, Jack his only example, while Jack goes through one girlfriend after another until he meets Mona. After Connor leaves for college, Jack is increasingly anxious in the empty house and invites Mona to move in with him. In such an arbitrary manner, Jack and Connor go their separate ways, seemingly disconnected and unable to express their feelings for one another.

Without extended family for guidance, the two brothers float in and out of each other's lives, Connor married first, with two children, Jack skating on the brittle edge of commitment with Mona. Through her inspired, yet subtle characterization, the author defines the brothers and their respective mates, the failures and triumphs in the world at large, but more significantly through the more treacherous waters of isolation. Jack and Connor are uniquely crippled by their early losses, recognizable in the partners they choose, their inability to reach out for comfort or offer any and their sad fumbling toward meaningful relationships. Difficult times draw the brothers into unfamiliar territory, unexpected moments of revelation that create an unbreakable bond that is inexplicably sustained through the years. Carefully crafted, Goldhagen's characters navigate a success-driven modern world, plagued by the usual disconnections, each managing to bridge the abyss to embrace family and brotherhood. Luan Gaines/ 2006.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deeply touching, April 12, 2006
By 
This review is from: Family and Other Accidents: A Novel (Hardcover)
I received this book in a gift bag at an event for BAM in Brooklyn, and didn't expect to have time to read it. But once I had glanced thru the first few pages, I was completely hooked. I feel like I've known the characters in this book my whole life.

Life-affirming, sad, tragic and -- unexpectedly -- extremely funny, this book was an incredibly pleasant surprise. I cannot recommend it enough.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "I meant to be so much better.", April 16, 2006
This review is from: Family and Other Accidents: A Novel (Hardcover)
"Family and Other Accidents" is the episodic story of Jack and Connor Reed, told over a span of twenty-five years. By the time he is twenty-five years old, Jack's parents are both dead. He has given up a terrific job to move back to the family home in Cleveland in order to take care of his adolescent brother and work in his late father's law firm. What kind of example does Jack set for Connor? The devastatingly handsome Jack picks up girls, has brief flings with them, and subsequently discards them like disposable tissues. Connor comes and goes as he pleases, fools around with his girlfriend, and tries not to think too hard about his past or future.

Each chapter moves forward to another stage in the Reeds' lives, but there are occasional flashbacks, as well, each one illuminating some aspect of the brothers' personalities. Years pass and Jack seems to be settling in with a journalist named Mona Lockridge, but he never fully commits to her. When Connor is in Harvard graduate school, he has a fling with a woman named Laine, and she becomes pregnant. Tough decisions must be made. Should Laine and Connor keep the baby? Should they move in together or get married?

Shari Goldhagen's novel is a celebration of life with all of its messiness--the good and bad choices, the joys and sorrows, the relief and regrets, and the fulfilled dreams and dashed hopes that everyone experiences at one time or another. The one constant in Connor's and Jack's lives is their unshakeable bond. Ironically, long periods of time go by when the two barely communicate, but Jack and Connor know that they can depend on one another for help and support during times times of tragedy and heartache.

"Family and Other Accidents" is warm, sexy, funny, intimate, and intensely human. Although there are many soap opera elements in this novel, Goldhagen is careful never to cross the line into melodrama. Jack and Connor are extremely flawed individuals who are far from heroic. In fact, they are often selfish, faithless to the women in their lives, immature and obnoxious. So why should we care about them? Goldhagen makes her protagonists so appealingly clueless that we hope a light bulb will go on over their heads, and that they will learn to appreciate the devoted women who stand by them. "Family and Other Accidents" demonstrates the importance of never taking for granted those who share our history--siblings, parents, wives, and children. Since life is so unpredictable, a devoted family member may be a person's most precious asset.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good book!, May 16, 2006
By 
This is the story of Jack and Connor Reed--and eventually their girlfriends, wives and children.

Jack is the older brother, who at age 25 returns home to care for Connor when their mother dies. Their father had died a few years before.

Jack meets Mona, a reporter for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and they begin a long-term relationship. Connor goes off to college, then graduate school in Boston. Jack tries to communicate his love for Connor, and often fails. Connor tries to let Jack know how he feels, and often fails. Jack continues to support Connor financially through college, then graduate school.

Connor meets and falls in love with Laine and marries her when she becomes pregnant. Connor is trying to create the family he never had, and become the father he always wanted. Jack keeps working long hours as an attorney, avoiding commitment to Mona; needing her desperately only after she moves to Chicago.

While growing up Connor had contemplated a poster in Jack's room of a young JFK, and goes into non-profit work, while Laine transfers her advanced degree into a lucrative career in high finance. The two brothers, while living far apart, are able to support each other through illness, broken and severed relationships, pregnancies, and other "accidents."

Ultimately this disconnected family has done things right, as the two brothers struggle through their "fluid" relationship with each other and their wives, girlfriends and children, they do manage to communicate their love for the people in their lives.

Armchair Interview says: A story of "family" most of us can relate to.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A tasty omelet, April 18, 2006
The characters of this book sneak into your heart. In some ways, they are recognizable as people you probably already know, but then they do surprising things -- or they themselves are surprised.

This story -- stories, really, since each chapter could stand alone -- examines the series of happenstance that forge and break relationships with the people we are most close to. But these characters are not just boats adrift on a sea. With a deep and sensitive style, the author reveals the ways they try to paddle through their lives. The interior monologues and imaginings of each chapter's focus character are insightful without devolving into psycho-babble.

The two main personages - Jack and Connor - don't fit the "orphan" type. They are neither wide-eyed na?fs, nor world-be-damned fatalists. They are distinct and unusual characters, and their brotherly similarities - and differences - create a kind of affectionate friction. Goldhagen convincingly depicts each character's take on his or her relationships with their siblings, lovers and children.

But this book is no downer, and it is often hilarious. This reviewer laughed out loud an average of once per chapter (a high rate for him).

A few scenes ring untrue, or at least, they were so unrecognizable to this reviewer that he had trouble believing them. But it was not enough to shake off the cumulative power of the book. This one is ripe for discussion with friends and may be a great shared read for couples and siblings.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Is blood thicker than water?, August 26, 2007
By 
A therapist would have a heyday with the Reed brothers. Jack (older by 10 years) is a commitment-phobic attorney forced to raise his younger brother after the death of their parents. Connor meets the love of his life at a young age and they immediately have children, only to struggle financially and emotionally. We follow both of their different yet equally complicated lives for the next few decades, all without the moral compass that parents can so easily provide. This is basically a story without a plot, yet it is an intense character study - both characters being equally fascinating for very different reasons. It was surprisingly unsentimental, although I still felt sad and a bit empty when it was all done. Still, it was a very well-written book, and admirable as I've just discovered that this was Goldhagen's debut novel. I would recommend it, but not if you are looking for something uplifting.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars great read, April 5, 2006
This review is from: Family and Other Accidents: A Novel (Hardcover)
This is one of those books that sounds more like your own life than somebody else's - which is what makes it such an engaging story. I couldn't put this book down.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pitch perfect, April 4, 2006
This book is funny without being ironic or shticky, and serious without being melodramatic or heady. A great read that will touch your heart as is glides by.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brotherly Love, July 11, 2006
In Shari Goldhagen's debut novel, "Family and Other Accidents," we are introduced to two unique and completely different brothers, Jack and Conner Reed. After their parents' deaths, Jack has no choice but to play more of a parenting role to his younger brother. Jack, ten years Conner's senior, is a Playboy attorney who has problems expressing love. Conner holds out hope for love from his relationships and from his older brother.

When Jack meets Cleveland Plain Dealer reporter named Mona, he decides to commit. But is it enough for Mona, who would like to be married? Later in college, Conner himself meets the love of his life in Laine. Do they have what it takes to maintain a long, healthy relationship though? Rest assured, the surprising answers will be revealed in this book that follows the Cleveland men through more than two decades of their lives.

"Family and Other Accidents" works on many levels. Goldhagen is a gifted and talented writer who manages to introduce interesting yet flawed characters whose lives readers will care to understand and follow throughout years of their lives. Those of us from the Cleveland area will instantly recognize and fall in love with the author's depiction of the area and its attractions. Though it tends to drag a bit, the book itself manages to touch on issues of aloofness, adultery, and death while still giving readers hope that love is attainable for anyone. It's definitely worth checking out.

Highly Recommended

Emanuel Carpenter
Author of "Where is the Love?"
emanuelcarpenter dot com
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars like real life, but somehow sharper, April 20, 2006
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alessandria (Coral Gables, FL) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Family and Other Accidents: A Novel (Hardcover)
You know what's great about this book? It's written by a young woman living in New York City, but it's not about a young woman living in New York City. It's a thick, dense story that's nevertheless easy to read about two brothers in the Heartland trying to figure out their lives -- and each other's lives -- over the span of 30 years. Each chapter itself works as a stand alone, but taken all together, it's a mosaic of a life, if not well-lived, at least lived in the way real people live. The world out there is scary; this book understands that all too well, yet survives the wreckage with dignity and -- most important -- aching heart intact.

This is a wonderful book.
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Family and Other Accidents: A Novel
Family and Other Accidents: A Novel by Shari Goldhagen (Hardcover - April 4, 2006)
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