Summary

Download PDF Print Page Citation Share Link

Last Updated on January 12, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1225

Author: Moïra Fowley-Doyle

First published: 2015

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Coming-of-age; magical realism

Time of plot: Present day

Locales: County Mayo, Ireland; Galway, Ireland

Principal characters

Cara Morris, a seventeen-year-old who has visions and whose family suffers mysterious accidents

Alice Morris, her eighteen-year-old sister

Melanie ...

(The entire section contains 1225 words.)

Unlock This Study Guide Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this The Accident Season study guide. You'll get access to all of the The Accident Season content, as well as access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

  • Summary
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

Author: Moïra Fowley-Doyle

First published: 2015

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Coming-of-age; magical realism

Time of plot: Present day

Locales: County Mayo, Ireland; Galway, Ireland

Principal characters

Cara Morris, a seventeen-year-old who has visions and whose family suffers mysterious accidents

Alice Morris, her eighteen-year-old sister

Melanie, her mother, an artist

Christopher, her stepfather for three years, who suddenly left when Cara was thirteen

Sam Fagan, her seventeen-year-old stepbrother, Christopher's son

Bea Kivlan, her best friend, who reads tarot cards

Elsie, her former childhood friend who has gone missing

Nick, her sister's boyfriend, a twenty-two-year-old musician

Seth, her maternal uncle, who died four years earlier

The Story

The title of Moïra Fowley-Doyle's novel The Accident Season refers to the period each October when seventeen-year-old Cara Morris and her family experience an inordinate amount of physical injury and emotional trauma. Cara resides with her sister, Alice, her stepbrother, Sam, and her mother, Melanie, in "a tiny speck of a town" in County Mayo, Ireland; Cara's father died in a car wreck when she was eight years old. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers

Moira Fowley-Doyle.

Courtesy of Cathy Fowley

As the novel begins, Cara and her family are entering the final week of their latest accident season, which has already brought the usual bumps and bruises. Cara senses this season is different from previous ones, however, once she notices mysterious remnants of a former childhood friend and current classmate, Elsie, in all her photographs. This sentiment is confirmed by Cara's best friend, Bea, who, after discovering that Alice has suffered a concussion from falling down stairs, predicts the season will be one of the worst. One day, Cara and Bea look for Elsie in her normal spot in the school library. Elsie is not there, but later that day, while walking home, Cara inexplicably stumbles upon a doll that looks like Elsie in a clearing.

Over the ensuing week, Elsie fails to show up at school, and when Cara asks various teachers of her whereabouts, they are clueless. During that time, Cara, Sam, and Bea come up with an idea to throw a Halloween masquerade party. They initially plan to host it at the house of Alice's boyfriend, Nick. However, they switch venues after Cara and Bea manage to sneak a look at Elsie's file in the school office. Elsie's listed address leads Cara and Bea to an abandoned, and purportedly haunted, grand manor house, where they ultimately decide to host their party. Though Elsie is still nowhere to be found, Cara continues to come across traces of her: she chillingly appears in photos Cara takes of a costume shop and later of the manor's master bedroom, and leaves a large collection of dreamcatchers, and then flypaper, in the clearing where the doll is found.

In the run-up to the party, Cara's family endure a series of misfortunes. First, Cara's mother breaks her arm when she is hit by a car and then Alice suffers a multitude of minor injuries after she, too, is struck by a car while crossing a road. Matters are further complicated by Cara and Sam's long-simmering romantic feelings toward each other; they share surreptitious kisses on a frozen river one night and, later, outside their home. Meanwhile, Cara, Sam, and Bea become increasingly concerned for Alice's safety. Cara confronts her about Nick, who is revealed to be physically abusive, and Alice eventually confesses that her concussion resulted from a fight with him. It is also suggested that Alice's relationship problems trace back to a traumatic experience with Christopher, whose mysterious disappearance four years earlier left Sam angry and resentful.

While another lead on Elsie turns up empty, Cara again sees her on the night of the Halloween party. During the party, Alice finally breaks off her relationship with Nick, while Cara, in a drunken stupor, enjoys a kiss with a popular, handsome classmate but comes to realize that she loves Sam. The party is eventually broken up by police, and in its aftermath, Cara's mother divulges the real reasons behind Christopher's disappearance: she banished him from the family with a restraining order because she feared for her daughters' safety. It is implied that he sexually molested Alice and deliberately caused the death of Melanie's brother, Seth, who suspected Christopher. Melanie also reveals that the accident season began with the tragic death of her first child, a previously unknown daughter named Elsie, who has been appearing before Cara as a guardian spirit. With her family's secret world "blown right open," Cara ultimately decides to flaunt her love for Sam and resolves to keep alive the memory of her late sister.

Critical Evaluation

Seamlessly melding fantasy and reality, Moïra Fowley-Doyle's debut novel, The Accident Season, is a provocative and beguiling work about the destructive power of family secrets. The novel is told almost entirely from the first-person perspective of Cara, whose revelatory narration helps illustrate a family that has long been splitting at the seams; occasional expository passages are presented in third-person. The Morris family's secrets are such that her mother has used an annual accident season to explain and cover up their deepest, darkest truths. The most painful and devastating of these is the sexual abuse Alice endures at the hands of her stepfather, which offers explanation for her remaining in an abusive relationship with Nick.

At one point, Alice downplays the severity of Nick's actions by telling Cara that they have a "tempestuous relationship." Only after Alice's secret about her stepfather comes to the surface do she, her mother, and Cara realize that fear and helplessness drove their silence. Cara's mother admits that she feared Christopher and "didn't want anything to happen to any of [them]." Meanwhile, Cara, who confesses to having once witnessed Christopher leave Alice's room, says that she believed him when he "told [her] it was just [her] imagination." Fowley-Doyle provides readers with important insight into the traumatic impact that sexual abuse can have on young people, which in Alice's case not only affects her relationships with romantic partners, friends, and family, but also her overall sense of well-being.

In addition, Fowley-Doyle cleverly explores the theme of forbidden love through the idea of the blended family. Throughout the novel, Cara playfully refers to Sam as "my ex-stepbrother," but also stops at several points to remind herself that he is, in fact, "my brother," when her true feelings for him start to take over. By novel's end, those feelings ultimately win out after the two reach an amorous resolution of their situation. Fowley-Doyle effectively captures the complexities and conflicts inherent in such relationships, while presenting a larger, heartrending tale of a damaged family that repairs itself.

Further Reading

  • Review of The Accident Season, by Moïra Fowley-Doyle. Kirkus Reviews, vol. 83, no. 9, 1 May 2015, p. 160. Literary Reference Center Plus, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=lkh&AN=102333195&site=lrc-plus. Accessed 13 Feb. 2018.
  • Review of The Accident Season, by Moïra Fowley-Doyle. Publishers Weekly, vol. 262, no. 19, 11 May 2015, pp. 63. Literary Reference Center Plus, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=lkh&AN=102634206&site=lrc-plus. Accessed 13 Feb. 2018.
  • Frostick, Cary. Review of The Accident Season, by Moïra Fowley-Doyle. School Library Journal, vol. 61, no. 8, Aug. 2015, pp. 102–3. MasterFILE Complete, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=f6h&AN=108666061. Accessed 13 Feb. 2018.
Illustration of PDF document

Download The Accident Season Study Guide

Subscribe Now