Accidents of Marriage, by Randy Susan Meyers, is a compelling look at how traumatic brain injury can affect a family and how each member responds to the extraordinary crisis. Within the chapters Meyers discusses the different perspectives of each family member. It is People Magazine’s pick of the week for September 12th.
Meyers, whose background includes working with victims of domestic violence, skillfully examines how each character reacts to the intense pressure, some failing while others rise to the challenge. The mystery begins after Maddy is gravely injured in a car accident, leaving the readers to wonder will she recover from TBI and in what capacity.
The author commented on the affect the accident had on each of the characters, “Maddy will never be who she was. She will be different but not all of it is for the bad. She became more truthful to herself, empathetic to others, and had to slow her life down. Each member of the family became a support system. In the beginning of the book Maddy was a support system for the children. As the book progressed Ben was Maddy’s support system, Emma became the support for her siblings and the household, and then things turned around as Maddy became more independent.”
The characters are well developed. Maddy is a mother of three who has a career as a social worker. She is married to Ben, a public defender who is known for his passion. The three children are Emma, a child becoming a teenager; Gracie, a sweet child, and her brother Caleb whose only desire is to play video games. Before the accident Maddy and Ben’s relationship teeter from fantastic to having periodic verbal furies. This comes to a head when Ben in a road rage moment swerves off the highway causing Maddy to being thrown out of the car, resulting in a massive brain injury. Everyone’s life changes forever because of the repercussions of the accident. Throughout the story Meyers manages to create feelings towards the characters that range from empathy to dislike.
Within the plot is how different dynamics can affect a marriage. Meyers noted, “I have always been interested in ‘moods of a marriage.’ Are you in a relationship or are just a manager? Ben and Maddy’s marriage is complicated. Ben is definitely a man with a rage issue, but I am hoping the readers will not dislike him because there are two views in any marriage. Sometimes the views collide. Hopefully what comes across is what is important in a marriage, the need to compromise and communicate. Concerning infidelity, when someone confesses I wonder if it is often for the confessor. Is the pain taken away from them and then given to the spouse? People need to think about rage, love, and infidelity in this story. I thought an interesting statistic is that 70% of all marriages have someone committing adultery.”
The family must navigate through their emotions of having to endure the changes made to Maddy. She must understand her limitations and what the “new normal” is for her that includes sleeping eighteen hours a day, moving in slow motion, having constant headaches, and losing some of her verbal filters. Meyers also examines how Emma loses her childhood and is required to, in some ways, take over Maddy’s role as housekeeper and mother. There are very touching moments in the book when Emma desires to have her vibrant mother back and one scene in particular when mother and daughter once again bond.
There are two powerful quotes in the book that illustrate the importance of being a mother: “Maddy understood how one could end up saying yes to everything when children became teenagers. Energy was on their side.” AND “Pregnant women should be required to take classes in referee and negotiation skills…” Meyers noted, “Hopefully, anyone who has a teenager will smile at these. I remember when my children were of that age how hard I tried to maintain strictness. They actually feel better when there is structure. That is one of the reasons Maddy’s children fell apart. Before the accident she structured their life and suddenly the children were on their own like molecules bouncing around the house. I really believe moms have many professions including doctor, nurse, psychologist, teacher, and coach. It is the hardest job in the world and as a mother of grown children I can tell you it never stops. The saying is so true, “little kids, little problems, big kids, big problems.” I will always be “mom” and will continue to give advice.
Accidents Of Marriage is a poignant and thought provoking novel. Meyers takes readers inside the hearts and minds of the characters. The story should resonate deeply since it about overcoming tragedy and the challenges a family must face.