by Jennifer Haigh |
REVIEWED BY KIM HUBBARD
The ailment alluded to in the title of Haigh's rich, enjoyable third novel is Turner Syndrome, a genetic disorder that inhibits puberty in girls. Diagnosed at 12, Gwen McKotch grows to be 4'11", is unable to have children and expects little from her life; her refined New England parents expect even less. As the years and the pages pass, though, it's clear that the "condition" Haigh has in mind isn't Gwen's alone: her brother Billy is secretly gay, her brother Scott hobbled by ADD, her father Frank a smug biologist whose crush on his luscious assistant—"I hired my midlife crisis," he says ruefully—has disastrous consequences. (We all have something, after all; it's what we do with our version of the human condition that counts.)
Haigh sets many balls in motion and drops one now and then, but the McKotch clan evolves believably, and satisfyingly. "Billy, Gwen and Scott," Frank muses at one point. "Each was a known compound that behaved in predictable ways." The book succeeds because he couldn't be more wrong.