The Condition

The Condition

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The Condition by Jennifer Haigh, Jennifer Van Dyck

The Condition tells the story of the McKotches, a proper New England family that comes apart during one fateful summer. The year is 1976, and the family has embarked on their annual vacation to Cape Cod. One day, Frank is struck by his thirteen-year-old daughter, Gwen, standing a full head shorter than her younger cousin. At that moment he knows something is terribly wrong with his only daughter.

Twenty years after Gwen's diagnosis with Turner's Syndrome—a genetic condition that traps her forever in the body of a child—all five family members are still dealing with the fallout. Frank and Paulette are acrimoniously divorced. Billy is dutiful but distant. His brother, Scott, awakens from a pot-addled adolescence to a soul-killing job and a regrettable marriage. And Gwen is silent and emotionally aloof, until she falls in love for the first time. And suddenly, once again, the family's world is tilted on its axis.

Compassionate yet unflinchingly honest, witty and almost painfully astute, The Condition explores the power of family mythologies.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061559921
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 07/01/2008
Edition description: Unabridged
Product dimensions: 5.25(w) x 5.75(h) x 1.52(d)

About the Author

Jennifer Haigh is the author of the short-story collection News from Heaven and 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 work by a New England writer. Her short fiction has been published widely, in The Atlantic, Granta, The Best American Short Stories, and many other places. She lives in Boston.

Jennifer Van Dyck has starred on and off Broadway, in such films as The Contender and Bullets Over Broadway, and on television in Law & Order and Spin City.


Boston, Massachusetts

Date of Birth:

October 16, 1968

Place of Birth:

Barnesboro, Pennsylvania


B.A., Dickinson College, 1990; M.F.A., Iowa Writers' Workshop, 2002

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The Condition 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 57 reviews.
JosieKramer More than 1 year ago
I'm just going to rip into this book. I got this book, because it looked interesting. Reading about Turner Syndrome (something I knew nothing about) and how it affects a family appealed to me. I was up to page 100 before anything was mentioned about the disease. It's been a quick read, but it just talks about a family and what they are all about. So far nothing is jumping out at me. Page 123. Still nothing. Scott seems to be getting the most attention in this book and it's not really all that interesting. Page 169. Chapter 4 starts here. I hadn't realized it until then, but each chapter has about 4 sub-chapters. They are laid out like a normal chapter, but without a number. This turned me off (even more than I already was). Ooh here we go. We are finally talking about Gwen and how her condition affects her and her family. Four (4) pages later, we are done with the explanation. Nice. I finished this book, because by then I was invested in it. Sadly. This is a story about a family. A family like yours and mine. With our quirky relatives and secrets we all keep in death. It was an easy read, but really, who cares? I feel I could have gone to my neighbors and gotten a good story just as easily. There is NOTHING in this book that makes it different from anyone else's life. The Turner Syndrome isn't discussed with any detail. We aren't even told how Gwen dealt with it during her school years. It's just brushed over. We are told about her running away to a man on an island that she barely knows. Show me a woman that hasn't done that at least once in her life. We all fall for the mysterious man at some point. Nothing special there. The brothers each have their secrets, (Show me a family that doesn't) and the parents are divorced, but still speak to each other at time. Just your regular American family. Woop-de-doo Sorely disappointed.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was deeply interested in reading this book about a family with its fractures and challenges and strengths within the family. It's always a good sign when I carry a book wherever I go just in case I have a moment to read. This was one of those books for me.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I would just like to correct momof3's entry on this site. She states in her review that the author did not include information on treatment of Turner's Syndrome -- estrogen therapy and growth hormone. In fact, the author does write about this in a chapter in which Frank, the girl's father, is reflecting on the unsuccessful use of each of these treatments on his daughter. I just felt that should be cleared up. I found this to be a good, solid read. The book was well constructed, and I enjoyed the character development, as well as the window into New England living. The descriptions of Paulette's house, for instance, were so well written I felt as though I were seeing it with my own eyes.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this one was one smoothly written novel. From the start to the end, I thought it felt like going down the river on a windless and waveless day. One word of caution, this is not one of those books where you read through it quickly. Absorb every bit of it. That's the only way to capture all its wonders...
harstan More than 1 year ago
In 1976, the marriage between Paulette and Frank McKotch is teetering on the brink of collapse because he wants sex and lots of it and she doesn't. They are spending the summer together with their three kids at Cape Cod with plans to sell the beach cottage when the vacation ends. However both are stunned to learn their thirteen years old daughter Gwen has been diagnosed with Turner Syndrome, a chromosome deficiency that keeps an adult in the body of a pre- puberty child. Gwen's parents disagree about how to proceed; Frank seeks medical answers while Paulette wants to keep Gwen safe. Two decades later, Frank and Paulette long divorced have never married again. Their son Bill lives with his beloved male partner and works as a cardiologist in Manhattan, but hides his sexual preference from his parents. Their youngest child Scott teaches school and is married with two kids. Gwen lives alone working at a museum. On a vacation, she falls in love with her guide. However, Paulette, still protecting Gwen, orders Scott to find his sister and bring her home. His mission forces each of the five McKotches to relook their relationships and their lives. This is an intriguing character driven tale that looks deeply at how a health condition impacts everyone in a family; even one that is dysfunctional. The cast drives the story line as each seems real though in many ways the rest of the family besides Gwen show their traits by how they act towards her. The key to this touching tale is the way Jennifer Haigh avoids turning THE CONDITION into a five tissue box soap opera; as readers will feel for Gwen who demands no tears as she is a self sufficient adult. Harriet Klausner
AlisonB More than 1 year ago
I'm astounded to see mixed reviews on this book. It was so amazingly well crafted. The prose was poetic and true and the dynamics in the family fascinating and very believable. I can't say that I agree with a previous reviewer that the use of setting was "fun". In my mind that doesn't even come close to giving the author enough credit. I live in Massahusetts and I couldn't believe how well written her descriptions of Concord, Cambridge and Cape Cod were-- and all the descriptions so relevant in building the characters in her story. Everyone I know who has read this book has loved it! I'll be looking for Jennifer Haigh's other novels.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I couldn't put this book down! I love the story of the family, and the writing. I definately recommend this book.
Avid_Reader_PA More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book. I loved the characters and really hated for the book to end. This was the first book I had read by Ms. Haigh and I was so taken with her writing that I also bought Mrs. Kimble and Baker Towers. They are both winners! Enjoy this writer!
LisaDunckley 10 months ago
This is a book about a family that is slightly dysfunctional—that is to say, a normal family. One of the main characters is Gwen, who has the genetic disease Turner's Syndrome, which keeps her in the body of a pre adolescent. First, the good: many books with a character like Gwen would have gone for the comedy/drama thing, where she would have been one of several “zany” characters. In this book, it's just about a family, where one of the members has this condition. Also, all of the characters were written about appealingly, so that there were none who were just bad (or good). All of them were developed and had nuance. The way that Gwen fell in love was well done, and the response by her family seemed true to life. Then the bad (which is more nit-picky type things than something really bad!). Mainly, I was surprised that so much of the book was about the family and not more about Gwen. She doesn't get much play until you are well into the book. Also, since the book was called “The Condition”, I thought there'd be more about, well, the CONDITION! I was really curious about how it would be living with this, living as an adult in a forever-child body, and there wasn't as much about this as I had expected. Again, I probably would have been fine with it had the book not been titled as it is. Overall interesting read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I liked the family and liked the was good not great but all stories cant be great....worth yhe read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I WAS interested in how the family dealt with the daughter's Turner Syndrome (which I knew nothing about before the infamous Harriet's review). BUT, YET AGAIN HARRIET KLAUSNER SPOILED THE ENTIRE BOOK!!! B & N, PLEASE DO NOT LET THIS REVIEWER SPOIL ANOTHER BOOK FOR ME....THERE HAVE BEEN TOO MANY TO COUNT! SHE USED THE REVIEW SECTION TO SUM UP THE ENTIRE BOOK!! WHY WOULD I WANT TO SPEND ~$10 NOW AFTER THE WHOLE STORY HAS BEEN REVEALED!! BAN HARRIET KLAUSNER!!! Her review was only the 2nd review I read about the book. The 1st review was a let down from JosieKramer, so I was a little excited to see a 5 star.....sooo disappointing! I gave the book 3 stars because (1) you have to give a star rating before a review & (2) I didn't want to hurt nor help the review status of the novel.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book. It is very well-written and believable. Not exactly a heartwarming story, but a frank look inside of a troubled family as it evolves from the child-raising years through middle age and beyond.
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the_curious_reader More than 1 year ago
The title The Condition ostensibly refers to a genetic but not hereditary anomaly in the DNA of one family member, but it is my perception that it more broadly refers to the individual conditions of each family member and more broadly to the dysfunctional condition of the entire family, and ultimately to that which both blesses and curses us all, the universal human condition. In the McKoch family, daughter Gwen's condition is externally visible to the eye and therefore cannot be denied. As to father Frank, mother Paulette, and sons Billy and Scott, physically admirable specimens all, their conditions are internal and their lives spent in good part hiding from rather than dealing with them. Internally, Gwen is the most balanced of the group, though she, too, has her secrets. Jennifer Haigh, with exceptional talent, leads us to love these people even when each feels driven to react to life and family dynamics in unlovely ways, each according to their individual condition, as they learn to accept themselves and each other.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago