The Accidentals
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The Accidentals

3.58 (555 ratings by Goodreads)
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Description

Following the death of their mother from a botched backwoods abortion, the McAlister daughters have to cope with the ripple effect of this tragedy as they come of age in 1950s Mississippi and then grow up to face their own impossible choices-an unforgettable, beautiful novel that is threaded throughout with the stories of mothers and daughters in pre-Roe versus Wade America.

Life heads down back alleys, takes sharp left turns. Then, one fine day it jumps the track and crashes."

In the fall of 1957, Olivia McAlister is living in Opelika, Mississippi, caring for her two girls, June and Grace, and her husband, Holly. She dreams of living a much larger life-seeing the world and returning to her wartime job at a landing boat factory in New Orleans. As she watches over the birds in her yard, Olivia feels like an "accidental"-a migratory bird blown off course.

When Olivia becomes pregnant again, she makes a fateful decision, compelling Grace, June, and Holly to cope in different ways. While their father digs up the backyard to build a bomb shelter, desperate to protect his family, Olivia's spinster sister tries to take them all under her wing. But the impact of Olivia's decision reverberates throughout Grace's and June's lives. Grace, caught up in an unconventional love affair, becomes one of the "girls who went away" to have a baby in secret. June, guilt-ridden for her part in exposing Grace's pregnancy, eventually makes an unhappy marriage. Meanwhile Ed Mae Johnson, an African-American care worker in a New Orleans orphanage, is drastically impacted by Grace's choices.

As the years go by, their lives intersect in ways that reflect the unpredictable nature of bird flight that lands in accidental locations-and the consolations of imperfect return.

Filled with tragedy, humor, joy, and the indomitable strength of women facing the constricted spaces of the 1950s and 60s, The Accidentals is a poignant, timely novel that reminds us of the hope and consolation that can be found in unexpected landings.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 416 pages
  • 135 x 205 x 26mm | 310g
  • HarperCollins
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 0062471759
  • 9780062471758

Back cover copy

"Life heads down back alleys, takes sharp left turns. Then, one fine day it jumps the track and crashes."

In the fall of 1957, Olivia McAlister is living in Opelika, Mississippi, caring for her two girls, Grace and June, and her husband. She dreams of living a much larger life--seeing Paris and returning to her wartime job at a landing boat factory in New Orleans. As she watches over the birds in her yard, Olivia feels like an "accidental"--a migratory bird blown off course.

When Olivia becomes pregnant again, she makes a fateful decision that reverberates throughout Grace's and June's lives. Grace, caught up in an unconventional love affair, becomes one of the "girls who went away" to have a baby in secret. June, guilt-ridden for her part in exposing Grace's pregnancy, eventually makes an unhappy marriage. Meanwhile Ed Mae Johnson, an African American care worker in a New Orleans orphanage, is drastically impacted by Grace's choices.

As the years go by, their lives intersect in ways that reflect the unpredictable flights of birds diverted from their expected journey--and the consolations of imperfect return.
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Review quote

"THE ACCIDENTALS is a major work by someone whose earlier novels already marked her as one of this generation's great novelists...And it is not only character and plot that make this book so readable; the writing is pure poetry. Gwin has done it again!"--Margaret Randall, author of Time's Language: Selected Poems 1959-2018
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About Minrose Gwin

Minrose Gwin is a writer, scholar, and educator. Her most recent books are a novel, The Queen of Palmyra, and a memoir, Wishing for Snow. She lives in Chapel Hill, NC, and teaches literature and creative writing at the University of North Carolina and fiction and creative nonfiction workshops at the University of New Mexico Taos Writers Conference. Minrose has been a writer all of her working life, starting out as a newspaper and wire service reporter and working in Mobile, Atlanta, Nashville, and Knoxville.
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Rating details

555 ratings
3.58 out of 5 stars
5 17% (94)
4 39% (214)
3 32% (179)
2 10% (55)
1 2% (13)
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