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The Accidentals

3.53  ·  Rating details ·  395 ratings  ·  71 reviews
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 Ameri ...more
Paperback, 416 pages
Published August 13th 2019 by William Morrow Paperbacks
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Average rating 3.53  · 
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Aug 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Minrose Gwin has written a beautiful story packed with Drama, tragedy, family, and hope. Life is complicated and the characters in this story had way more than their fair share of complicated situations. This family drama spans five decades of hurt and healing. The primary focus of the story is on sisters Grace and June, but we do get the point of view of several other characters. The story starts off with the death of Grace and June’s mother after a botched backstreet abortion. Grace carries ar ...more
Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader
Olivia McAllister lives in 1950s Opelika, Mississippi with her husband, Holly, and two young daughters, June and Grace. Olivia wishes more doors were open for her. She misses her wartime job at the landing boat factory.

Olivia becomes pregnant and makes a decision, one that leaves her daughters without their mother. Her sister tries to step in and help them all. The effects of Olivia’s decision can be felt all the way to Grace and June’s adulthood’s. Grace has a baby in secret, and June ends up
DJ Sakata
Favorite Quotes:

My sister and I don’t often go in the room where Dad sleeps. Our mother’s blood made a dark lake on the wood floor by the bed… We open our mother’s drawers and touch her things, drawing them to our faces, then lift up a corner of the rug to look at the stain. It is a secret thing we do together and don’t talk about afterward.

We kept our distance from our aunt’s person. Frances had what June and I referred to as the Lady Schoolteacher Smell, a cross between dust and mold, chalk an
Aug 18, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley-books
This book was a bit of a mixed bag for me, to the point that, despite having finished reading this a few days ago, I’m still struggling to gather my thoughts together so I can write a coherent review. On the surface, the story sounds simple enough: it is the year 1957 and the McAlister family – Olivia, her husband Holly, their 2 young daughters Grace and June – live an ordinary life in the small town of Opelika, Mississippi. Holly is a bookkeeper at the local lumber mill while Olivia is a stay-a ...more
Sep 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Olivia McAlister found purpose in her job at a landing boat factory in New Orleans during WWII. She had big dreams for her life, but those dreams were lost in the small town of Opelika, Mississippi. Married to her husband Holly, with two young girls, June and Grace. Not interested in socializing, Olivia takes pleasure in bird watching. When she finds herself pregnant, she chooses to go to a backwoods abortionist, a decision that will prove to be fatal. Holly, June and Grace are lost without Oliv ...more
Magdalena aka A Bookaholic Swede
Jan 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2019
1957, Opelika, Mississippi. June and Grace's mother Olivia McAlister makes the bad decision to have a backwoods abortion. This decision leads to her death and June and Grace's lives forever changed. Their father Holly can't really deal with the loss, and Olivia's unmarried sister tries to help them out. Then, tragedy strikes again when Grace becomes pregnant and has to go away to give birth in secret so nobody would know. Back home June is waiting. She's the one that told their father about the ...more
Aug 03, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a beautifully written novel about a family in the South from the 1950s to present day. It's full of love, betrayal, redemption and forgiveness within this family over the years. It is about history as disparate as the space race, the atomic bomb, women's reproductive rights, civil rights, women's rights and animal cruelty ... sounds like a lot of ground to cover but it is all fits well into the story lines. This is my first book by this author but because of the beautiful writing in this ...more
There was so much about The Accidentals that didn't work for me. I don't even know where to start. It sounded like such a great story and I am a sucker for a good tragedy. Unfortunately, this fell so flat for me.

The author writes about some pretty heavy topics in this book - backwoods abortions, loss of a spouse/parent, grief, teen pregnancy, adoption, kidnapping, prison, unhappy partnerships, and redemption. It felt ambitious but I was looking forward to it. It ended up being a vague mess.

I k
Aug 22, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
As young girls, sisters June and Grace lost their mother to a botched backwoods abortion. This sends the girls on a trajectory in their lives and this book is their story, spanning 50 years. The ripples of their mothers tragic choice affects their lives and their subsequent choices for decades to come.⁣

This family saga starts off with a bang and I was completely enthralled with this family and their story. The sisters face a lot of heavy issues in their life, representative of the time period a
Carla Johnson-Hicks
4.5 Stars rounded up. This was a story that pulled me in, grabbed me, and left me wanting more. I listened to the audiobook and absolutely loved the narration. I found myself listening when I should have been doing other things. The narrator, Cassandra Campbell, did an amazing job and I felt I was there listening to the various characters tell their story. I was drawn to the characters and wanted to know more about what was happening in their lives, what directions they would take, what influenc ...more
Aug 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019-read

This story takes place in Mississippi in the 1950’s. Olivia is not enchanted at all by her life. She misses how things were before she married, and she longs to see Paris. She’s so disenchanted that when she finds herself pregnant, she despairs and seeks out an abortion. Olivia does not live through her botched abortion, and her decision has effects on her daughters and husband for many years.

Olivia’s scenes at the beginning of the book are really just the setup for the rest of the story, b
3.5 stars.

The Accidentals by Minrose Gwin is a family saga that spans several decades.

In 1957, Olivia McAlister lives in a small Mississippi town with her husband Holly and their daughters June and Grace. Olivia wants nothing more than to move back to New Orleans and return to work, but Holly cannot find a job that pays as much as his current position. When she discovers she is pregnant again, Olivia makes an ill-fated decision that changes the course of her family's lives for years to come.

In t
Aug 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arc-edelweiss
The Accidentals is a novel that explores the social constraints placed on women in the 1950s and 1960s. We also see some of the effects of racism on justice. June and Grace are two sisters who suffer the loss of their lovely mother Olivia after she seeks a back alley abortion to end a pregnancy she didn't want and that her husband has effectively tricked her into having by sabotaging their birth control method. Olivia had dreams of a creative and fulfilling existence but is trapped in her narrow ...more
Kim Galles
Oct 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
I loved the beginning of this book and couldn’t put it down, halfway through I felt like the story had too many storylines and in a jumbled way it all came to end, losing some of the characters connections. Definitely worth the read but disappointing at the end.
Sep 01, 2019 rated it it was ok
Too depressing to finish... another novel about a dysfunctional Southern family with horrible parents.
Shelleyrae at Book'd Out
It was the blurb of The Accidentals that caught my attention, promising a generational story focused primarily on two sisters, June and Grace McAlister, beginning in the 1950’s with the death of their mother, Olivia, from a botched backyard abortion.

I liked the first quarter of this novel, which concentrated on the sisters’ child and teen years after the loss of their mother, and feel that had Gwin kept this her focus, I would have been quite satisfied. Unfortunately I soon began to feel that th
Apr 13, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well written. One of the things I liked best was that nearing the end, all the storylines were merging and just before she tied it in a neat little package, it ended. The reader was left to ponder how the next hour went and wonder about recurring motifs - like parrots.
3.5 rounded up to 4 stars

The Accidentals is my first time reading one of Minrose Gwin's books, I was drawn to the tour based on the publisher's description of two sisters whose lives are forever impacted by a choice their mother makes. The title refers to vagrant birds, accidentals who stray outside their expected territories, It also alludes to several characters in the books feeling like they don't belong. I will confess that I had a hard time getting into the story at first, not particularly
Aug 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
The Accidentals appealed to me for a number of reasons, the most important being how much I loved Ms. Gwin’s book, Promise. The title refers in it’s official definition to birds that appear where they don’t belong – rather like the blue jays we had visiting here in Montana in the winter of 2018.

We are nowhere near a blue jays normal range but we truly enjoyed their visits. In the more abstract sense accidentals are people that are out of place. I don’t know about you but I have felt like a bit o
In 1957, Olivia McAlister chooses to have an abortion in Mississippi. Illegal at the time, the only options for abortion were often cheap, quick back-alley abortions. Olivia longed to return to New Orleans and feels like an “accidental”—a migratory bird flown off course. Olivia dies leaving her two daughters, Grace and June, and her husband Holly on their own, the effects far-reaching throughout their lives. Holly becomes obsessed with building a bomb shelter. The daughters struggle to find thei ...more
denise kay jacobs
Dec 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love Minrose Gwin's writing and have read all of her books. This one was probably my least favorite, which at a four, should tell you that I love the others. To me, the story was initially compelling. At one point, however, I began to wonder whose story it was. Who was the central character? As characters died, I crossed them off my mental list. I was surprised that Gwin ended with a chapter by Ed Mae and ambivalent about the ending, which left me to imagine how the story might continue.

Author Minrose Gwin writes a lyrical novel of Southern life from the 1950s until 2008 focusing on the lives of two sisters growing up in a small Mississippi town. Her writing is captivating but her storytelling is lax; oftentimes I was just lost. Perhaps the changing point of view in different chapters might be one explanation but really the long time frame and lack of clear markers was my larger challenge. I just didn’t know where we were or where the characters were in time or place. I didn’t ...more
Susan P
Accidentals—migratory birds found outside of their normal geographic range—are the rarest of rarities, according to “A Field Guide to the Birds.” The book “The Accidentals” covers 60 years in the lives of two sisters whose lives are irreparably marred by the shocking death of their mother. While I love Minrose Gwin’s captivating writing style and was fascinated by this book, I thought she was too ambitious in trying to cover almost every heavy topic possible—backwoods abortion, grief, homosexual ...more
Kaye McSpadden
Sep 17, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-fiction
I loved Gwin's previous book, "Promise," so much! Unfortunately, I was greatly disappointed in "The Accidentals." Although I think there was a really strong story in these pages, and there were some beautifully written passages and memorable scenes, I really didn't like the way it was written. The story was told from the point of view of seven characters -- all were told in 1st person (why?), with some chapters told in past tense and some in present tense. It was very difficult to feel (or find) ...more
Debrah Roemisch
Nov 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Migratory birds who have flown off course are called "accidentals" is what the title refers to--and many of the characters end up being "accidentals." A story that shows how trauma can affect generations and others around you. Some have mentioned it all starts with the mother's tragic decision to have an abortion(illegal of course at the time), but it really starts with her husband's decision to force pregnancy on her. I found myself really drawn into the story--however I felt the ending was rus ...more
Sep 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Accidentals is a major work by someone whose novels already marked her as one of this generation's great novelists. Like migratory birds who have flown off course and are therefore termed "accidentals", it's characters lives unfold, each claiming his or her space as well as intersecting with each other. Set in Opelika, Mississippi, in 1957, Gwin tells the heartrending story of a mother feeling trapped in her life, whose death throws her family into turmoil. 
Lisa N
Sep 12, 2019 rated it it was ok
2.5 stars - This was a weird book with odd characters and strange events in their lives but like the car wreck you can’t turn away from, I kept turning the pages to see what would happen. It takes place over several decades and the chapters alternate different POV’s. It’s filled with multiple social issues including a dysfunctional family, teen pregnancy, abortion, homosexuality, women’s rights, health problems. Not a book I would recommend to others, but it’s one I’ll remember.
LInda L
This book just had too much -- abortion, teenage pregnancy, prison, racism, parental issues, and MORE. There was just no end. Minrose had enough materiel for about 3 more books. Oh, and I almost forgot all the stuff about birds. And dogs. And astronomy. Like I said -- no end. And all the stuff about sisters and THEIR issues -- it was amazing. Like the part about the dead coming back to life. Oh yes -- that as well. Again -- TOO MUCH.
Oct 14, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't usually like stories with multiple narrators; however, this story was really interesting as it switched from each viewpoint. The story starts with Olivia as she is feeling trapped in her life with two young daughters and had found herself pregnant. She takes herself for an illegal abortion and ends up bleeding to death. The rest of the story is about the two daughters and how the death of their mother and the influence of their spinster aunt and distant father shaped their lives.
Feb 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: drama, coming-of-age
I loved Gwin's novel "Promise" and when I found this book, I was thrilled. It's not quite on the same level as "Promise" but it's still a solid read. Gwin is good with description and narrative prose, and her character development, especially of Grace and June, is fantastic. She weaves a satisfying plot that comes full circle at the end. My one tiny nitpick was that at times it felt like the timeline was being rushed along.
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Minrose Gwin is the author of three novels: The Queen of Palmyra, a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers pick and a finalist for the John Gardner Fiction Book Award; Promise; and The Accidentals. Wishing for Snow, her 2004 memoir about the convergence of poetry and psychosis in her mother’s life, was reissued by Harper Perennial in 2011. Wearing another hat, she has written four books of lite ...more

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