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The Condition: A Novel (P.S.) Paperback – June 30, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A dysfunctional New England family struggles toward normalcy in this poignant novel from PEN/Hemingway-winner Haigh, who follows the children of resentful, controlling, Paulette and distracted, needy Frank. Even during a childhood in idyllic Cape Cod, there are hints of a rocky future. When that future arrives, Billy, the most successful of the children, keeps a secret about his sophisticated New York life from almost everyone. Scott, formerly the uncontrollable brat of the bunch, sees himself in his own troubled son. Meanwhile, Gwen suffers from a genetic condition that prevents her from developing into womanhood. The story starts slowly, and while the setup feels familiar (a fractured New England family), the children take unexpected turns that shake up the narrative, leading to the most surprising twist of all: despite the sobering events chronicled, there's a strong nod to the healing power of love. Haigh allows the reader to sympathize with each of the family members, and, in turn, to see their flaws and better understand them. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Starred Review. In her third novel (after Baker Towers), New York Times best-selling author Haigh weaves a realistic contemporary tale centering on a 12-year-old girl with Turner syndrome and her relationship with her fractured family. Twenty years into the future, a trip to Cape Cod and down memory lane brings the family its first wave of honest and open communication and maybe even a glimmer of hope. Actress/narrator Jennifer Van Dyck brilliantly captures the unique yet believable characters. Recommended for all public libraries and an obvious choice for book discussion groups. [Audio clip available through www.harperaudio.com; watch the book trailer at oogop.notlong.com; the Harper hc was "highly recommended," LJ 4/1/08.—Ed.]—Valerie Piechocki, Prince George's Cty. Memorial Lib., Largo, MD
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: P.S.
  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (June 30, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060755792
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060755799
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (192 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #297,558 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jennifer Haigh is the author of four critically-acclaimed novels: FAITH, THE CONDITION, BAKER TOWERS and MRS. KIMBLE. Her books have won both the PEN/Hemingway Award for debut fiction and the PEN/L.L. Winship Award for outstanding book by a New England author, and have been published in sixteen languages. Haigh's short stories have appeared in Granta, Ploughshares, One Story, The Saturday Evening Post and many other places, including THE BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES 2012. Her latest book, the short story collection NEWS FROM HEAVEN, returns to the coal mining town of Bakerton, Pennsylvania, the setting of her second book, BAKER TOWERS. Winner of the Massachusetts Book Award and the 2014 PEN/New England Award, NEWS FROM HEAVEN is now available in paperback.

Born and raised in western Pennsylvania, Jennifer now lives in Boston.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

52 of 55 people found the following review helpful By Charles Runels Md on September 29, 2008
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I thought of how much my sons' childhood differs from mine. I thought back to a time and then came back to this time. That emotion, that knowing that comes from surveying the life of a person and of a family--that is what Ms. Haigh does with much skill in this tale of a family.

Little Gwen has a "condition" called Turner's Syndrome and as a physician I was impressed by the accuracy of the facts presented and the skill of their weaving, but you can have that from any medical book (the facts about Turner's). What came more skillfully and with more value while reading is Haigh's ability to flash forward and flash backward to show the condition of each person, of the family, and of the plight of walking around on this planet.

I knew I would see a mature and fresh view when I read these two paragraph's early in the book:

Anne lit another cigarett, "it's awful. I have this beautiful daughter, and my whole body is sagging by the minute, I feel like a shriveled old hag."

(Years later Paulete would marvel at the memory: how old they'd felt at thirty-five, how finished and depleted. "We were still young and beautiful," she would realize far too late.)

Somewhere, an ancient scripture teaches to count our days for we are like a puff of smoke here today and gone tomorrow. Though a saga that shouts our days are not infinite may feel heavy--such a saga gave me a reminder to close the book and get up and live my life. I fellow could gather much less from a novel.

Having worked as an ER physician and witnessed hundreds of deaths, I have an appreciation for the brevity of life that keeps me focused on the value of a day. I'm not sure where Ms. Haigh learned that lesson but she teaches it with skill in this story of pain and beauty, sickness and health, love and betrayal.

This excellent read will make you want to kiss your wife, hug your child, and walk out side and inhale as much air as your lungs will hold.
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70 of 77 people found the following review helpful By P. Lieber on July 13, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As a woman with turner syndrome and as a librarian, I found this book to be extremely well written and researched. The author gets the details about turner syndrome right without failing to make the character Gwen fully human. She is neither overly sympathetically portrayed, or used as a foil for the other characters. Some curious readers may find themselves running to Wikipedia to find out more details about the biology referenced in the story (phenotype, knockout mice?) but this doesn't distract from the main story and adds interest. This isn't a book about turner syndrome; it's about the Human Condition (as the jacket blurb says) that we all have. I would heartily recommend "The Condition" to anyone interested in an engaging, realistic read.
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50 of 56 people found the following review helpful By Jay VINE VOICE on July 20, 2008
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I got this book through the VINE program. Read the book in two sittings. The characters are past believable... they are PAINFULLY believable!!! I imagine anyone with extended family dynamics will find someone aptly described in this novel. Ms. Haigh intricately describes each characters weaknesses and foibles, yet keeps them endearing - a hard task indeed, but essential to keep our interest up until the end.

I was content that all the story lines I cared about were tied up and I was even happy with how she ended them. I though the balance between plot and character development was excellent.

If possible, I would avoid reading reviews with spoilers on this one - this story flows well and it would be a shame to waste such good writing by already knowing what was coming...

I wholeheartedly recommend this book - just make sure you have some time free when you start reading it - you're not going to want to put it down!

All the best,

Jay
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By JJ Stark VINE VOICE on July 29, 2008
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
After reading BAKER'S TOWERS a few years ago and hearing such wonderful things about MRS KIMBLE, I couldn't wait for the latest release from Jennifer Haigh. The story sounded promising and I was anxious to dig my teeth into it. Sadly, the story never really seemed to grab me until nearly the end, and then it was too late -- the book/story ended. If the first 3/4 of the book had captured my attention as much as the last 1/4 did, I would have called this a success, but sadly it just didn't do it for me.

I wanted to love these characters, especially Gwen, but there was something that left me feeling detached. Like the walls they had built in their lives carried into the story leaving readers feeling left out. It was if the characters didn't WANT you to get to know them or cheer them on. It was hard to feel anything about any of them.

It is beautifully written, but at times I felt like the chapters/pages were never-ending. I found myself skimming the pages, looking for highlights, just to get to the next chapter. I don't do that too often -- a story has to move pretty slow for me to do this, and unfortunately, that's how I found THE CONDITION.

I liked the various meanings of the title -- It could really apply to any of the main characters, altho readers (and members of the McKotch family) are led to believe that the "condition" refers to Gwen's Turner's Syndrome, when in reality, each member of the family has his or her own "condition" to deal with.

I really liked Baker's Towers and maybe I was expecting a similarly told story, but for some reason I never connected with the McKotch family. I thought the last few chapters were GREAT and wish that some of these things had been told near the beginning of the book, with flashbacks telling the story.
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