Category Archives: Minrose Gwin

Review: The Accidentals by Minrose Gwin

Title: The Accidentals by Minrose Gwin
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Genre: Historical, Women’s Fiction
Length: 402 pages
Book Rating: C+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss


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 America.

Life heads down back alleys, takes sharp left turns. Then, one fine day it jumps the track and crashes.”

In the fall of 1957, Olivia McAlister is living in Opelika, Mississippi, caring for her two girls, June and Grace, and her husband, Holly. She dreams of living a much larger life–seeing the world and returning to her wartime job at a landing boat factory in New Orleans. As she watches over the birds in her yard, Olivia feels like an “accidental”—a migratory bird blown off course.

When Olivia becomes pregnant again, she makes a fateful decision, compelling Grace, June, and Holly to cope in different ways. While their father digs up the backyard to build a bomb shelter, desperate to protect his family, Olivia’s spinster sister tries to take them all under her wing. But the impact of Olivia’s decision reverberates throughout Grace’s and June’s lives. Grace, caught up in an unconventional love affair, becomes one of the “girls who went away” to have a baby in secret. June, guilt-ridden for her part in exposing Grace’s pregnancy, eventually makes an unhappy marriage. Meanwhile Ed Mae Johnson, an African-American care worker in a New Orleans orphanage, is drastically impacted by Grace’s choices.

As the years go by, their lives intersect in ways that reflect the unpredictable nature of bird flight that lands in accidental locations—and the consolations of imperfect return.

Filled with tragedy, humor, joy, and the indomitable strength of women facing the constricted spaces of the 1950s and 60s, The Accidentals is a poignant, timely novel that reminds us of the hope and consolation that can be found in unexpected landings.


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 the aftermath, Holly is devastated and with the threat of nuclear war a real possibility, he begins preparing to build a bomb shelter. He is also drinking too much and ignoring June and Olivia.  The girls are left to fend for themselves until Olivia’s unmarried sister Frances swoops in to help them.  But her attention is short-lived and the girls are again neglected after their aunt returns to New Orleans.

Fast forward a few years and Grace is happily involved in an unusual romance.  After a  shocking discovery, she begins making plans that will hopefully provide her with the chance for happiness. But once June becomes involved, Grace has no choice over what happens next. This unfortunate series of events leaves Grace unable to forgive June and their once close relationship remains fractured over their lifetime. June also makes decisions that take her life down an unhappy path that she might not have necessarily chosen under different circumstances.

Perhaps the most tragic person whose life is touched by the McAlister family is African American care worker Ed Mae Johnson. A situation out of her control and a moment of inattention on her part culminate with devastating consequences.

Although the storyline is interesting, the pacing is slow and a bit disjointed. Some of the passages are a little vague which makes it difficult to understand what exactly is going on. Several paragraphs are long and rambling and do not add much to the unfolding story. The storyline covers several decades but readers must decipher the time period from  vague mentions of cultural events. The chapters alternate between several characters’ points of view but these transitions are clearly marked.

The Accidentals is an intriguing novel that is quite thought-provoking. The characters are interesting but not always easy to like.  Minrose Gwin deftly handles difficult subject matter with sensitivity. While the majority of the novel is overshadowed by sadness, the conclusion is surprisingly uplifting and wraps up all of the various story arcs.

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Filed under Historical, Historical (50s), Minrose Gwin, Rated C+, Review, The Accidentals, William Morrow Paperbacks