Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Review: The Accidentals by Minrose Gwin

One decision has the power to send a life off course. A big enough decision can send several lives off course. When birds spin out of their usual habitats or migratory paths, they are called accidentals. But people too can be accidentals, out of place and alone, as are the characters in Minrose Gwin's newest novel, The Accidentals.

In 1957 rural Mississippi, about an hour from New Orleans, Olivia McAlister finds herself pregnant again. Already depressed and stifled by her very constrained and prescribed life as a wife and mother, she who had grown up in New Orleans and worked during WWII, Olivia cannot go through with another pregnancy and so she makes the fateful decision to have a backwoods abortion. This decision will reverberate in her family's life for decades, leaving her husband reeling, her daughters motherless and adrift, and will eventually touch the lives of those completely unrelated to her. This botched abortion sets off a chain of events that feels both inevitable and deeply sad.

Grace and June are Olivia's daughters and they are forever marked by their mother's decision, leading them to make their own fateful choices. The chapter narration switches back and forth, mostly between Grace and June but also including the first chapter from Olivia, chapters from their father Holly, and from Ed Mae, a black woman working in an orphanage for white babies, and Fred the Ambulance Driver, who responds to a call from that orphanage. The very disparate voices allow Gwin to both tell aspects of the story that Grace and June couldn't possibly know without forcing information where it doesn't belong and to show how each decision in one life ripples out and affects others seemingly unconnected. The novel takes on a plethora of social issues: abortion, teenage pregnancy, adoption, homosexuality, racism, opportunities for women, and so much more as it spins through some of the major events (the moon landing, the Cuban Missile Crisis, Vietnam, the Challenger disaster, and Obama's first presidential campaign to name a few) of the second half of the twentieth century and into the present. The novel has an air of deep, pervading sorrow weaving through it, a story of lives lived out of place and alone. It moves slowly through Grace and June's early lives but then picks up speed and races through their adulthood, skipping quickly through large swathes of time, sometimes leaving the reader a little confused as to just where the story stands in time. The pacing is uneven and the ending is both too tidy and out of keeping with the rest of the novel. Despite this, the writing is beautiful and it is clear that Gwin is talented, if perhaps a little lost at the end. Her McAlisters are a family broken by their mother's death, young women who continue to cycle through feelings of betrayal and a desire for forgiveness throughout the years, never quite regaining their closeness but always remaining tied to each other, no matter how loosely.

For more information about Minrose Gwin and the book, check our her author website, look at the book's Goodreads page, follow the rest of the blog tour, or look at the reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.

Thanks to Trish from TLC Book Tours and publisher William Morrow for inspiring me to pull the book off my shelf to read and review.


  1. This sounds absolutely amazing, I can't wait to read it! Thank you for being on this tour. Sara @ TLC Book Tours

  2. We shared similar thoughts about this book I think. Thanks for sharing your review


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