The Accident Season
Fowley-Doyle, Moira. The Accident Season. New York: Kathy Dawson Books, 2015.
Moira Fowley-Doyle's The Accident Season follows Cara, Alice, and their step-brother Sam, whose family is plagued by accidents once a year, and their friend Bea. The novel opens in the midst of the family's Accident Season,which is sure to result in all members of the family sustaining injuries of one sort or another; the cover states, "Accidents happen. Our bones shatter, our skin splits, our hearts break. We burn, we drown, we stay alive." Following the concept that the human experience encompasses points of suffering and, yet, survival, Fowley-Doyle skillfully incorporates elements of magic realism and the supernatural to create an atmospheric story that oscillates between the exploration of forbidden relationships, repressed memories, violence, loss, secrets, and love.
The attention Fowley-Doyle gives to Cara's search for Elsie, who mysteriously shows up in all of Cara's photos and who has disappeared from manning the secrets booth at school, the apparition of dream-like versions of the 4 teenagers, and the preparations for a Halloween masquarade ball in an abondened house creates darkly whimsical imagery that alludes to the family's unfortunate history. Readers will appreciate the mystery that floods every aspect of the novel, as well as the sensory experiences it evokes.
Though the setting occurs in Ireland, the text is not difficult to comprehend for non-Irish readers; however, this title probably won't be popular among all young adults. Those who appreciate an intellectual element to their novels will enjoy this book more than those who gravitate toward a quick pace and action.
Near the end of the novel, Cara asks Elsie, "Do you ever get this feeling... this feeling that you've done everything wrong... this feeling like your world's about to blow open" (242). Cara address basic human nature; it's impossible for us to know the future outcomes of our actions, so it is easy for us to feel as if we've been living our lives through a series of mistakes. Young adults, in particular, question the validity of the choices they make, espcially when their peers and family have such strong influences over their decision-making. Yet, even as an adult, I question choices I make; the feeling may lesson with time, but it never entirely leaves us.
Elsie tells Cara, "there's a lot you pretend you didn't see," and when Elsie disappears, Cara wonders, "maybe I've been talking to myself all along" (247). Fowley-Doyle addresses our psychological need to repress or ignore or deny experiences within our lives. This may be our brain's way of coping with abuse or trauma, but I think it is also a relevant issue in our every day lives. It's easy to ignore or pretend we didn't do something wrong, something that may have hurt someone else. It's often easier for us to deny responsibility of our actions, rather than admit fault. However, without interpreting our world with eyes wide open, it is impossible to learn from our mistakes and shortcomings. If we contintue to pretend to not see things, we will also continue to feel as if we've done everything wrong, as mentioned in the quote above.
Lastly, "Maybe I just need to be remembered, [Elsie] said... I think it must have felt like drowning, catching death that way. I think about Seth hitting his head on a rock, I think about hands holding me under the water. I think about Sam in secrets, Alice in fire, my mother in memories. I think that we all drown, in one way or another" (290). The significance of this quote is two-part:
1. The need to be remembered - This too is a basic human fear. We fear that we'll be forgotten in death, that our life had no significance. But, for me, this fear extends beyond death to the every day, to our relationships. When a relationship ends, I fear being forgotten in that way too; instead of fearing my life had no significance, I fear my relationship had none. In many ways, that can be just as terrifying.
2. The idea that "we all drown, in one way or another" - There is truth in this as well. We all fall victim to our faults, or our fears, or our secrets, or our memories at one point or another; whatever it is that weighs us down shapes the choices we make and that too can figuratively kill us. This is why it is so important to acknowledge, rather than ignore, our ugliness, the bits of ourselves that make us uncomfortable. We cannot change, we cannot break the surface, unless we admit to that which pulls us under.
I definitely recommend this book; as an adult, I found it provocative, and I am sure that teens, who are questioning their identities, their pasts, and their futures will also find relevance in the text. I wouldn't put this in the hands of everyone, but I would definitely put it in the hands of those existentialist teens, who are pondering human existence.
As a librarian, I love the idea of the secrets book and the art installation that resulted from it, and I plan on creating a maker-space of this sort in my library.
If you haven't read it, whether you're an adult or young adult, you should give it a try; I'm sure you will find something that inspires you.
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