Everyone falls in love with Amber in a different way. But who is she, and what does she want? Essentially this is a modern-day reworking of Pasolini's 1968 film Theorem, in which unexpected dinner guest Terence Stamp charismatically destroys a bourgeois family. Here, too, the lives of Eve, Michael, Magnus and Astrid will never be the same after Amber's visitation … The Accidental has an infectious sense of fun and invention. The story goes through some surprising reversals and arrives at a satisfying conclusion, which is also a beginning.
It's difficult for any writer to pull off rotating viewpoints, but Smith does it perfectly, without a hint of clumsiness or tentativeness...It's especially hard considering how disparate the characters are. Astrid can't wait to grow up; Michael can't handle being an adult. Magnus is as consumed with his guilt as Eve is with her self-doubt. Smith captures the speech and thoughts of each character with a real, compassionate kind of virtuosity … It pays to be suspicious of writers who tie things up too neatly, who end novels a little too perfectly. But Smith doesn't have this problem – the last sentence of the book manages to be enlightening, confusing and almost destructive in its simple power.
Into this psychological briar patch strolls Amber, a blonde, brazen Rorschach blot of a houseguest who will profoundly shake up each family member before wearing out her welcome. She arrives one day, unannounced and very much uninvited, and immediately makes herself at home … Amber is flippant, caustic and conniving, traits that make her recognizably, albeit unattractively, human. But throughout The Accidental , up until the very last words, Smith drops subtle and tantalizing hints that Amber may in fact be a projection of the Smarts' damaged psyches, a shared delusion whose purpose is to rattle them out of their torpor and compel them to act … Though The Accidental is not a conventionally funny novel, readers may find themselves laughing — in surprise and delight — at the way Smith takes a literary trope and riffs on it until she's turned it inside out.