The story of a family on the edge... and how they got there.
For Madeline Illica, the love of her husband Ben is her blessing and curse. Brilliant and charming when he chose to be, Ben turns into a raging bull when crossed—and despite her training as a social worker Maddy is never sure what will cross him. She kept a fragile peace by vacillating between tiptoeing around him and asserting herself for the sake of their three children until a rainy drive to work when Ben’s temper gets the best of him and the consequences leave Maddy in the hospital, fighting for her life.
Exploring emotional abuse, traumatic injury, and children lost in the shuffle of recovery with unblinking honesty, Accidents of Marriage is an account of life inside of a marriage and how the unexpected gift of clarity can make the difference between living in hell and salvation.
Accidents of Marriage
imaginingthebittertasteof acrumblingtablet of Xanax.
her more thana chemical
Nothingappealed to her less
than cookingsupper. Churningstomach acid—courtesyof work—coupled with anxietythatBen
comehome as frenzied as
he’d left madea formidableappetite
She could bottleitand
Each morningshe spun thewheel
hopingthe arrowwould hit happyhusband, or at leastneutralguy. Todayhis arrowlanded
ontotal bastard, holding her personallyresponsible forCaleb’s
tantrum, which—oh, horror!—had
costBen twenty minutes
taking apill, butthe rites
of familyhappiness demanded her attention. Gracieand
sprawled on the rug, recovering from
dayat camp: seven-year-old
cheek with his
on the television.Emma,
her oldest, a daycampcounselor at
kept Maddystapled to thecouchdespiteher
longlist of waiting tasks. Chop vegetables, paythe mortgage,and
ran out ofsocks. Find a stamp somewherein
themess shecalled her
so she couldmail the electric bill. Give her
had fought that morning, he’d need
with children proneto transferring theirstickysnacks to theupholstery, prickled againsther bare
arms. Shelusted for air-
for peace, justice, and her
husband. Each suffocating Boston
her less. According
to Ben, her environmental
turned situational with each
drop of perspiration.
of herback didn’t easethe
low, nordid shovingasmall hard
Her stomachgrowled despiteher
ofdesire for food.
Fish sticks would be easy,
but she couldn’t bear turningon the oven.
door slammed.Emmabanged her
on the table.Her daughter’s
up from the couch
and headed toward thekitchen.“Justmaking
expecting someone else?”she asked.
“Itcould havebeen Daddy.”
“Right.”What an all-purposewordrighthad
become in their family,
you havespoken, but am choosing not to engagein anymeaningful
way.Lately, theyused italltoo
covered half thetable.Emmastared into
the refrigerator as
Maddygathered the papers,unsurewhether
Had Ben finishedreadingtheBoston Globe?TheNewYork
Thesound of breaking
glass followed byCaleb’s
Emma could specifyjusthow superiorashopperCaro’s
Emma followed as
Maddyran to thelivingroom.
happened?”Maddycrouched next to
Caleb, her stomach droppingat the sight
of blood pouringfrom
his foot. Shards ofglass surrounded
him, liquid droplets ofmilkclingingto thepieces, alarger
whitepuddlepoolingon the woodenfloor. She grabbed awadded-up
napkin to staunch the blood, crouchingawkwardlytoavoid
Gracie’s mouth trembled.“Ijustgot up, that’sall,
his milk glass. Hegot mad and
then hestood upand kicked
theglassanditbroke. He stepped on it.It
“It’s okay, Gracie.”Blood
soaked through the napkin, dissolvingthe
she exerted pressure.“Emma,
This was preventable, Ben would say.This is
thedirt on Caleb’s
moppedthe spilled milk with
“You need to wringitout,Emma. Never mind, just get aclean
Emmastomped out with
Gracie in her wake. Wetcloth
slapped in thesink.
Mom.” Emma’s voicefrom the kitchen was extraloud.
Usingthe hem of her
skirt, Maddycovered the napkin.
returned with a new towel.Emmawatched
from thedoorway, twirlingthe bottom of her
skirtand replaced itwith
whimpering. “DoIhavetogo to thedoctor?”Hesquinted aspeeked
look too deep, but it has to be cleaned,”she said.“Idon’t think
weneed adoctor.”Maddy’s pulse calmed.
in her mind:wrappingCaleb’s foot
safely enough to hold
in thebleedinguntil theygot to
kids in the car,calling Ben. Shelooked again—makingsureher decision
was based on wisdom and not wishful thinking.It
Hetriedto pull his foot away.“No! No
Emmasquatted next to them.“You let
Momwashout the cut andI’llplay
smile came through
goodness and stop losingpatiencewith
hersulks and eye rolling.“Thankyou.”
leaving Maddytorn between soothingandyellingStop it,
especiallywhenshe saw Gracie
of the cross she’d picked up from GrandmaFrances,Ben’s
ritual blessings. Gracie’s
thingshe knew, her
daughter would begenuflecting at
OurLadyof theVirgins.BuyingheraJewish star oraUnitarian
flamingchalice, beforeGrandma Frances
bed, went on her to-do list. Mixed marriageonlywent
women should be required to take classes
in refereeand negotiationskillsalongwith breathingand
forsupper?”Gracieraised her chin
back her daughter’s sweatyblackcurls, the onlyvisible part
ofMaddythat Graciehad inherited.Thekids divided theirparents’ parts
and shared few: SkinnyCaleb
Ben’s thick brown hair, Maddy’s
longlashes and narrow
shoulders. Poor Gracie, like Ben,would haveto fight a tendencytowardgettingthick in the middle. Emma, wirylike
her eyes. “Healthy,
Mom.” “Shut up,Emma,”Calebsaid.
leaned oneithershoulder. With
on the coffeetable,Maddy driftedin and out ofsleep. Dirtybowls decoratedwith
blobs of hardenedfudgelittered
the room. Aftercrestingto
aquick high ofgigglesover supper,
they’d slumped into queasysugarcomas.
of Ben’s nightlyreturn:Thecar rollingongravel.
droppingon the halltable.Briefcasethudding
to the floor. Sighs of relief ordisgust
indicated his mood level. Despitetheirearly- morningfight,
the livingroom their first
thelivingroom and surveyed theircollapsedbodies
to him, throwingher
aroundhis waist. Hestroked
ringlets into a littlebundle
as she leaned into hisslightlysofteningmiddle.
Hehad thebodyof aforty-three-year-old
who fought gravitybyplayinghandballtwiceaweek, but who’dgiven upcrunches.Not
bad, but unlike Maddy,who ran
and used freeweights
and therowingmachine in their basement, his battle
“What happened?”he asked.
looks like awar zone.”
himself.”Caleb held outhis bandage- swathed
foot while stillstaring
“You okay?”Ben asked.HegaveGracie
onelastpat andwentto the couch.“Hurt
Caleb shrugged.“Iguess. A little.” Hestudied
ahand on Caleb’s calf.
on myheelon that side.”
“It’s on theballof his foot. Theinside,”Maddysaid.
it happen?”Bentugged on his chin—hispoker
tell that steamcould
build at anymoment.
and kissed her husband,
hittingthe side of
his mouth he offered.
“Hello, Maddy? How are you?”
He exhaled. “Don’t
start.I’vehada rough day.”
Kissingwas starting?It is
you’rebeing sarcastic, she answered
to him.It was an accident.”Sheknew theliewas barelyplausible, but she also knew it was justenoughforhimtoavoidbeingprosecutorial.
“Wherewas hesleeping?The recycle
“Veryfunny. Aglass broke.
End ofstory.”There.Thetruth snuck in.
“Whycan’t thekids eatand
drink at the table likethey’resupposed to?Why weren’t theyusingplasticglasses?”He ran his hands through his hair.“Look
No wonder everyone’salways having accidents.”
Caleb rubbed histhumb back
and forth across his knee. Graciecrossed
“Not now, okay?Please.”Shesent
him asignificant look.
his shoulders, leaned back on the couch, and
staredat the ceiling.
He took a deep breath,
remembertheanger management sheet Maddyhadforced on himsixmonths ago,
he’d thrown ashoe.At thewall, heinsisted each time
she mentioned theincident.Not atyou. But
hermessage had landed. For once, she’d broken through
of her careful observations
about his temper.
his rages, but she’d bedamned
he’d thrown theshoe— justas he hadyears beforewhen he’d
detergent againstthe wall. The differencewas
this time he’d listened to her. He’dread
the sheet despitehatingitwhen she supposedlysocial-worked him.
your clients, he’dyellwhenshe deconstructed him. The children. Their
Ifhedidn’t want herto social-work
him, then shesurewished he’d
to managehis own moods.Maddy’s
sisterinsisted that onedayitwould
late for anger prevention
no patience forBen’s
herself for the antagonismherfamilyfelttoward
Everythingnegative,anyway. When had
her sister to saythings were
going great?To bragabout Ben
takinganentiredayto makesureGracie could
rideher bike safely?Howoften
did she mention thatBen took
the kids to the movies whileshe
At least hermother pretended to loveBen.Forwhich Maddywasgrateful.
Emma’s shoulders squared. Gracie
into Maddy. Ben
Ihaven’t fallen or brokenanything, what doIget forsupper?”
Emmajumped up.“ShouldImakeyou eggs, Dad?”
and closed hiseyes, pushingoffhis shoeswith his
his forehead. Heblinked andgaveher
atired smile.“What is
cut up carrots foryou?”
whereshe’d dropped itin
corner of the livingroomand hurried out beforeshe
had towitness the girls waitonBen.It
drove her crazywatchingthembeingtrained in the fineart
angryman, but try explainingthat one.
a child couldn’t feed ahungryfather?
wash and rummagingthrough thecrowded
shelves for fabric softener, shedragged
up, stretchingto reach behind thejumbleof cleaningsupplies. Shepulled out adustybaggiethat held
a few tablets, took out ayellow one,
bitoffhalf, andswallowed itdry.Sometimes
she wondered if she could remember
allof her caches. Keepingthem
a convoluted senseof
Shemight reachforonepill in
a week; she might reach
ineveryday.Eitherway, knowingthat theywerenever morethan a
Back in thekitchen,
of Ben’s eggsand
littered the countertop.
She cleared the debris to one side to makesandwiches
forthe kids’lunch boxes. Trying
to spread cold peanut buttermadeher hateBen’smother.
spent thepast forty-sixyearsappeasing
Ben’sfather’s neuroses bykeepingaspotless house and refrigeratingpeanut butter, on constantguard against
food poisoning, bacteria, and
Because ofFrances, theyate
hard peanut butter.
tore. She folded
of Skippyand shoved itin
her mouth. Then shegota fresh slice and began makingthe sandwichesagain:grapejellyfor
Caleb, blueberryforGracie, and
forEmma, Maddy’s mother’s
her. Shewaited for
thekissof Xanaxto kick in,
if theyate hot mayonnaise and
slept on typhus-encrustedsheets when
they’d met, not whiletheyburned offthesearingheat
oftheir early years. He’d been
Ben, apublicdefense lawyer
demandingthe world givehis
a break—alittle justice,
a fair shot. Shecould
barelybreathe around him,
some part ofheralways
Herhand on his shoulder.
An ankle casuallyleaningagainsthis calf.
lifewith exclamation points
comingout all sides. Povertyto the right?Boom!Racism?Pow.Dirtylandlords?Gotcha!
Who knew allthat passionand ragecould
be directed at a late
I was born in Brooklyn, New York, where I quickly moved from playing with dolls to incessantly reading, spending most of my time at the Kensington Branch Library. Early on I developed a penchant for books rooted in social issues, my early favorites being Karen and The Family Nobody Wanted. Shortly I moved onto Jubilee and The Diary of Anne Frank.
My dreams of justice simmered at the fantastically broadminded Camp Mikan, where I went from camper to counselor, culminating in a high point when (with the help of my strongly Brooklyn-accented singing voice), I landed the role of Adelaide in the staff production of Guys and Dolls.
Soon I was ready to change the world, starting with my protests at Tilden High and City College of New York . . .
. . . until I left to pursue the dream in Berkeley, California, where I supported myself by selling candy, nuts, and ice cream in Bartons of San Francisco. Then, world weary at too tender an age, I returned to New York, married, and traded demonstrations for diapers.
While raising two daughters, I tended bar, co-authored a nonfiction book on parenting, ran a summer camp, and (in my all-time favorite job, other than writing) helped resurrect and run a community center.
Once my girls left for college, I threw myself deeper into social service and education by working with batterers and victims of domestic violence. I’m certain my novels are imbued with all the above, as well as my journey from obsessing over bad boys to loving a good man.
Many things can save your life—children who warm your heart, the love of a good man, a circle of wonderful friends, and a great sister. After a tumultuous start in life, I’m lucky enough to now have all these things. I live in Boston with my husband, where I live by these words:
“Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.”
So compelling, and heartbreaking ACCIDENTS OF MARRIAGE captures marriage in a honest way, the scarier side, one that is not spoken of nearly enough. Randy Susan Meyer's creates a story that sparks emotion in the reader. With various perspectives shared the reader gets pulled deeper into the story. How can what was once so appealing turn into something scary and life changing? Dive into ACCIDENTS OF MARRIAGE to find out!!!