Wednesday, October 20, 2010


I thought that an accidental was a sharp or flat in a piece of music whose key would not normally have that note as a sharp or flat—metaphorically something outside the norm. In this case a stranger, Amber, inserts herself into the lives of the Smart family while they are renting a summer home in Norfolk, England. She knocks on the door with the apology, "Sorry I'm late," and Michael and Eve each think that the other has invited her. Eve's teenage children, Magnus and Astrid, both soon become attached to this mysterious woman, and their lives are transformed. At the beginning of the book we find that Magnus has been a party to a prank that led to a fellow student's suicide. His guilt is so crushing that he can barely function, and yet the rest of the family chalks up his anti-social behavior to normal teen angst. At first I thought that this aspect of the family dynamic would make for an overwhelmingly depressing novel, but I was mistaken. Amber is the focal point, as she blurts out blunt truths that the family interprets as outrageous jokes, thus lightening the tone of an otherwise bleak story. I really enjoyed this book, particularly the sort of cyclical aspect to the ending, but I have 2 complaints. First of all, it is too much like the movie Six Degrees of Separation, although Amber never claims to be acquainted with or related to the Smarts or anyone else for that matter. My second complaint is that after I finished reading it, I felt that I must have missed something as far as the author's intentions. When the Smarts return home from their vacation, they are in for a couple of big surprises that give them all a chance to make a new beginning. Does Amber have anything to do with one of the surprises and therefore exert an influence on their lives beyond what we already know? That isn't clear, so that I have to assume that the author intended for us not to know, but I'm still wondering if I missed a clue.

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