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Wednesday, July 30, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 74.0° F  A Few Clouds
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A Book A Week: The Condition by Jennifer Haigh


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I thought Jennifer Haigh's The Condition was unremarkable. Janet Maslin, writing in the New York Times, did not agree. I wish I had enjoyed it as much as she did. Maslin says, "Ms. Haigh has a great gift for telling interwoven family stories and doing justice to all the different perspectives they present." While this is a true statement, I would argue that the characters featured in The Condition may have their different perspectives, but I wasn't particularly interested in any of them.

In this book, we follow an affluent family in New England from the 1960s through several decades as they come to terms with changes in themselves and in society. It's a similar premise to Baker Towers, but the family in Baker Towers is working class, and their troubles just seem more genuine and less TV-movie-ish than the ones the McKotches face in The Condition.

I will agree with Maslin, though, that Haigh does a good job of balancing a family saga with an unfolding medical drama without turning the book into a "tragic family secret" story. Gwen, whose "condition" is Turner syndrome, is just one character out of many in this book, and everyone gets his or her turn in the spotlight. So why did Haigh title the book the way she did? She could just as easily have called it The Parents' Divorce or The Older Brother is Gay, two plot strands that get just as much ink as Gwen's medical condition.

Meh. Read Baker Towers, or Haigh's first book, Mrs. Kimble. Both of those are more original and more compelling than this one.


Becky Holmes blogs about books at A Book A Week.

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