Family and Other Accidents

ShariBook1There’s plenty of buzz around Gotham Fiction teacher Shari Goldhagen’s debut novel, Family and Other Accidents (Doubleday/Broadway) a story that follows two brothers from Ohio over the course of twenty-five years. Publishers Weekly calls it “emotionally riveting” and designates it as one of the 2006 debuts to watch. The book has also garnered strong reviews from Kirkus, Booklist, Library Journal, Entertainment Weekly, and People.  Author Richard Ford proclaims that Goldhagen has “a fine eye for the world and the American sentence.”

See for yourself.  Here’s a passage from the book in which the two brothers, Jack and Connor, take a walk with Connor’s girlfriend.

They walk down JFK Street, passing the redbrick John F. Kennedy School of Government complex where Connor reports daily.

“I remember being a kid and getting totally freaked out by that Kennedy poster you used to have over your desk,” Connor says, so sincere Jack feels the post-Mona-nostalgia phenomenon well in his throat. “That used to be your thing, right? You were going to be president?”

Jack stares at the brown-green water of the Charles and thinks about the Cuyahoga, his river.

“Something like that,” he says, feeling old and stodgy in business-casual khakis and a button-down. Everyone looks about nineteen—girls with pierced navals peeking out of baby tees, guys with too-big jeans. It’s not as though he’s the oldest person tromping through the rain-softened ground, but he’s definitely in the latter half. And he wonders where that line of youth resides and how he stumbled across to the other side, a place where the stars of sitcoms and romantic comedies are now a few years his junior instead of his senior.

“What happened?” Laine asks, and Jack can’t tell if she’s being polite or if she’s genuinely interested.

“Sometime in law school, I guess I decided I wanted a Porsche instead.” Jack smiles now because he does plan to yell at Connor later.

“Sounds reasonable.” Laine’s gray eyes flash something.

“I could still go for the whole Jack Kennedy image,” Jack says.

“Would that make me Bobby?” Connor asks.

“Hey, I don’t want to be Ethel,” Laine says, swollen lips in a pout. “She looks like a horse. I want to be Jackie.”

“Fine with me.” Jack puts his arm around Laine and gives her a good-natured squeeze. In some parallel universe in his head, he lets his hand linger too long on her shoulder, maybe taps her ass when Connor isn’t looking—shags her for the sport of it, because she goes by a stupid name, and she’ll end up hurting his brother anyway. In this universe he lets her go. “You can be my Jackie anytime.”

“All girls want to be Jackie,” Laine says. “It’s one of the things we’re taught when we’re growing up—be elegant, be loyal, wear really nice clothes.”

Jack thinks Laine means girls other than her, not the smart, sexually aggressive ones getting their MBAs from Harvard. It’s the girls like Mona who want to be Jackie, demure and pretty, good with children and the elderly. Or at least, that’s what he thought Mona wanted.

“Naw, Lainey,” Connor says. “You’re not Jackie or Ethel, you’re Carolyn Bessette and I’m John-John. We’re the next generation of dead Kennedys.”

“I like it.” Laine reaches for Connor’s hand and braids her long fingers with his long fingers. “I like it a lot. Doomed, but doomed in new and different ways.”

Letting Connor and Laine walk ahead, Jack kicks stones at the clunky soles of their Dr. Martens.

“Still doomed,” he mumbles.
Copyright © Shari Goldhagen.  Reprinted by permission of Doubleday/Broadway.  All rights reserved.

For more information about Family and Other Accidents and Shari’s current book tour, visit: