Tragedy first wounds and then fragments a middleclass family in Judith Guest's novel Ordinary People. When Buck Jarrett dies in a freak boating accident, his younger brother Conrad struggles to accept that he has survived while his brother has not. Conrad's subsequent suicide attempt leads to a long hospitalization, which only partially stabilizes the depressed teenager. The situation is worsened by his mother's emotional withdrawal, as Beth tries to reassert some normalcy by compulsively straightening the house, privately awash in grief for her beloved Buck. Her behavior profoundly affects both Conrad and his father Calvin. Conrad begins to see a psychiatrist, Dr. Berger, who helps him to unlock his grief and grapple with his survivor's guilt. Conrad also develops a relationship with a girl that aids him in his healing process. But as his mother and father increasingly draw apart, the family is once again broken. With a skilled depiction of a family dealing with grief’s shattering tendencies, Guest’s novel is highly recommended for young adult readers.