In “Accidents of Marriage,” social worker Maddy Illica comes in regular contact with battered women, and tells herself she’s not like them, “shut[s] off the thoughts with an iron fist.” They’re bruised and bitter, hooked on their men like heroin, and she’s different. Her husband Ben doesn’t hit her, or their three children — he just yells, breaks the occasional dish, is harder on them than they deserve. It’s not the same.
Ben doesn’t see himself as cruel either. He’s stressed, he’s busy, and Maddy could make it easier for him, for God’s sake. He just can’t do anything right in her eyes; she thinks he’s “unaware of his crimes and misdemeanors, when in actuality he only committed about a quarter of his sins without complete agency.” All he can do is try.
So they proceed, struggling to convince themselves everything’s fine, until Ben’s temper gets the better of him while driving along a rainy street one day. The accident that results leaves the family in shambles. Is it Ben’s chance to redeem himself by putting them back together? Or is the marriage too broken to fix?
Meyers’ compelling novel switches points of view: Maddy, Ben and their eldest daughter, 14-year-old Emma, all get an empathetic voice. It’s a deft exploration of the borders of abuse and the aftermath of tragedy, the triumphs and disappointments of recovery, and the possibilities of faith and forgiveness.
ANNA PERLEBERG ANDERSEN