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Cover image for And sometimes why
And sometimes why
Publication Information:
New York : G.P. Putnum's Sons, c2008.
Physical Description:
303 p. ; 24 cm.
When Sophia and Darius say good-bye to their teenage daughters one unremarkable morning, they have no idea how permanently their family will be affected by a decision made around the breakfast table. One of the daughters will have a terrible accident, the other will meet a boy. Both events will change their lives forever--Publisher.


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With wit and warmth, Johnsons debut novel captures the fragile rhythm and unpredictable drama of family life.

Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

Vogue contributing editor Johnson examines in her heartbreaking debut the ties that bind and break in the face of tragedy. Darius, a Shakespeare scholar and professor, and his wife, Sophia, head of membership at a local art museum, are mired in the banal ebb-and-flow of family life they share with their two teen daughters-bookish Miranda and imperious social butterfly Helen. A sisterly tussle over use of the family car ends with Miranda attending college orientation and finding herself attracted to fellow freshman-to-be Jason, and Helen, while riding on the back of her just-dumped boyfriend's motorcycle, getting into a horrific traffic accident. As Helen lies in the ICU suspended between life and death, the author gives voice to the people Helen has touched: Darius and Sophia find little solace in each other; Harry Harlow, the game show host who was involved in Helen's accident, witnesses his life falling apart; and Miranda awkwardly navigates the feelings Jason has stirred within her. While the wandering focus on disparate characters pulls the novel in unwieldy directions (as when Miranda drops out to follow her boyfriend to Alaska), Johnson's portrayal of a family's grieving is exquisitely crafted. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Kirkus Review

Well-written but formulaic debut explores a family's grief after a tragic accident. Intellectually engaged, financially blessed, possessed of good values and better luck, the attractive McMartins have never known real heartbreak until, on an otherwise unmemorable morning, 16-year-old Helen sets off to break ties with Bobby, her secret older boyfriend. With four beers in his belly and a gas tank full of sugar (courtesy of a jealous ex-girlfriend), Bobby crashes his motorcycle into the car of reluctant celebrity Harry Harlow, host of a famous game show, Would You Rather? Bobby dies instantly, and Helen is in a coma. Her father Darius, an esoteric English professor with a photographic memory, holds vigil at her beside, refusing to give up hope for her recovery. Mother Sophia, an arts administrator racked with guilt over her blindness to the signs of Helen's ill-fated romance, becomes obsessed with Bobby, especially after detectives suggest that he had criminal ties. Elder daughter Miranda, a freshman in college, allows herself for the first time to be drawn into a relationship with a man, someone she met on the day of Helen's accident. Meanwhile, though he was not at fault in the accident, Harry finds that he can't let go of his guilt. He begins acting erratically, is fired from the game show, divorces his young wife, pursues a tentative friendship with Sophia and launches a bizarre business venture. As it becomes increasingly apparent that Helen will never recover, family members flee to their separate spaces. Miranda follows her man to Alaska's remote backcountry; Darius insists on moving Helen home to care for her himself; and Sophia, sensing a crumbling marriage, moves to New York City. The final bleak development is anticlimactic, given how many lives have already been irrevocably altered. Unremarkable, though fans of Ann Packer and Jodi Picoult may appreciate Johnson's careful foray into post-crisis fiction. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

*Starred Review* Johnson's debut tells the story of one family's tragedy and the ripple effect it causes. When 18-year-old Miranda McMartin and her 16-year-old sister, Helen, get into a fight over who can take the car, neither the girls nor their parents imagine the decision will result in Helen being involved in a terrible motorcycle accident involving Helen's boyfriend. He dies, and Helen is in a coma. While the McMartins make daily pilgrimages to the hospital, decisions about Helen's care start to divide the once tightly knit family. And the man whose car the motorcycle hit, game show host Harry Hawlow, finds his easy, comfortable life eroding around him when he's put on forced leave from his show. As one parent clings to hope while the other tries to move on, Miranda follows her college boyfriend to the wilderness of Alaska. Unflinching and heartbreaking, Johnson's first novel deftly depicts the different ways people react to and own tragedy, be it one that directly or tangentially affects them. The powerful story and characters will stay with the reader long after the final page is turned.--Huntley, Kristine Copyright 2008 Booklist

Library Journal Review

Vogue contributing editor Johnson portrays typical New York couple Sophia and Darius, whose teenage daughters meet widely divergent fates in a single day. With an online reading group guide. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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