Graceann's Reviews > A Disorder Peculiar to the Country

A Disorder Peculiar to the Country by Ken Kalfus
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's review
Nov 24, 10

really liked it
bookshelves: general-fiction
Read from November 22 to 24, 2010

This is such an interesting premise for a novel, and something that I admit I wondered to myself. What about the people who, on 9/11, were disappointed that their spouses survived the attacks or missed their flight? As ugly a thought as it is, there must have been people here and there who were stuck in miserable relationships, or in the midst of ugly divorces, who would have viewed this monstrous day as a stroke of good luck.

That's not a pretty concept, but given the sheer scope of the calamity, it is a plausible one, and it is the leaping-off point for A Disorder Peculiar to the Country. Joyce and Marshall are in the process of divorcing, and they loathe one another. He works on the 86th Floor of the World Trade Center, and she's due to catch Flight 93 to San Francisco. Her flight is canceled, and he escapes the Towers. Neither of them is pleased to see the other come home. (I'm not giving anything away here; this happens in the first ten pages and is told in the jacket blurb.)

How their survival, their obvious PTSD and how it affects the divorce battle provides the crux of the story. As ridiculously as they behaved prior to 9/11, some of their actions afterwards are positively inexplicable. As is usual, they don't notice that their kids are far more aware of what's going on, and are far more astute about the consequences. These are self-involved, selfish, and generally unpleasant people, and it's difficult to find any sympathy for them. As I looked in at them from the outside, however, somewhat as if I was looking at a zoological exhibit, I found them fascinating.

This novel was thought-provoking and largely well-written. The reason for four stars rather than five is that there were some scenes that had no bearing on the story that I could see, and were just wasted space. One, where Marshall attends a rather strange party, was particularly extraneous. Overall, however, the story gave me some uncomfortable things to think about, and that's not necessarily a bad thing.
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11/23/2010 page 70

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