Book Review: May We Be Forgiven by A. M. Homes

May We Be Forgiven by A. M. HomesAs an A. M. Homes fan, I was excited to see that she has a new book out. It reminded me a bit of This Book Will Save Your Life which is one of the best books I’ve ever read. The basic story of that book is: a rich but isolated man becomes poor(er) but surrounded by frieds and family. It’s such a feel-good story but not exactly a sweet story.

May We Be Forgiven: What it is about

From the publishers: “Harry is a Richard Nixon scholar who leads a quiet, regular life; his brother George is a high-flying TV producer, with a murderous temper.They have been uneasy rivals since childhood.Then one day George loses control so extravagantly that he precipitates Harry into an entirely new life.

In May We Be Forgiven, Homes gives us a darkly comic look at 21st century domestic life – at individual lives spiraling out of control, bound together by family and history.The cast of characters experience adultery, accidents, divorce, and death. But this is also a savage and dizzyingly inventive vision of contemporary America, whose dark heart Homes penetrates like no other writer – the strange jargons of its language, its passive aggressive institutions, its inhabitants’ desperate craving for intimacy and their pushing it away with litigation, technology, paranoia. At the novel’s heart are the spaces in between, where the modern family comes together to re-form itself. May We Be Forgiven explores contemporary orphans losing and finding themselves anew; and it speaks above all to the power of personal transformation – simultaneously terrifying and inspiring.”

May We Be Forgiven: What I thought

This book begins and ends at two different Thanksgiving dinners, a year apart. And what a year it was! So much has happened that most people present at the second Thanksgiving dinner weren’t even known to the ones at the first dinner, or have changed enormously during the year. Reading about the second dinner was very satisfying because it showed how things have changed for the main character, Harry, and all the new people he has befriended over the year.

The America Homes describes is not a country I want to live in. Many people are unfriendly towards each other, especially when they realise the encounter isn’t beneficiary to them. So, someone in a shop or providing a service, will only be polite if they think Harry will be a customer. As soon as it turns out not to be the case they become nasty and unhelpful. Many people are just after his money and will rip him off as much as they can. Harry lets them, as he has more important things on his mind.

He feels very guilty for something he has done, that has greatly influenced his brother’s family. In order to atone, he starts to look after people, with no regard of what he actually thinks of them. In fact, the book generally describes what Harry does, but not why he does it. Even though the whole book is written in the first person, this makes Harry an mysterious person, and as a reader, I never felt I knew him. I guess a lot of the time, Harry let most things happen to him, rather than actively doing things.

A lot of unlikely (or just about likely) things happen to Harry: there’s violence, arms-trading (briefly), sex, psychiatric sessions, adoption, encounters with strange people and much more. This is all good fun but sometimes it slows down the story a bit.

The only part of the story I didn’t find interesting was the research (and information provided by Harry) about Nixon. I think Harry was a Nixon-bore anyway, and being educated on Richard Nixon did nothing for me.

Overall, this book is a great exploration into human relations (for better and for worse) and while it is a little long, the book is a very interesting read. Not as good as This Book Will Save Your Life, though.

Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)

Number of pages: 482

First published: 2012

I got this book: bought it at my local book shop

Genre: contemporary fiction

Extra: Other books by A. M. Homes that I have read include The Mistress’ Daughter, This Book Will Save Your Life, Music for Torching, The End of Alice, In a Country of Mothers.


Have you read this book?

What did you think?

About Leeswammes
I'm owner and editor at In my free time, I read and review books on my two blogs, Leeswammes' Blog and De Boekblogger.

16 Responses to Book Review: May We Be Forgiven by A. M. Homes

  1. I have read ‘This book will save your live’ and loved it too, though not so much as you did, I think, Judith. Maybe I’ll try this one too. Thanks for the review.

    • Judith says:

      Nadine, I found this book similar, at least it reminded me of This Book Will Save Your Life. I can’t promise you’ll love this one but since you loved This Book, you should give it a go.

  2. I already have the e-book so it’s on my reading list, with tens of others, but due to your comment it’s now on the front row. Thanks.

  3. debbierodgers says:

    It sounds as if this was a little bit of a disappointment for you, Judith – sorry to hear that.

    I think I’ll start my reading of Homes with This Book Will Save Your Life.

    • Judith says:

      Debbie, no, this book was not a disappointment at all, just a bit less good than Homes’ previous book. And a little bit long. But I still loved the story.

  4. Judie says:

    As someone who, sometimes, likes reading about the emotional struggles of people, I find this book interesting. Thanks for sharing your review. A very grace-filled new year, fellow Judith! 🙂

  5. Chinoiseries says:

    I’m wondering how American readers feel about the way their society is represented in this book. A novel exploring the human condition sounds like an intriguing read, but like Debbie, I think I’ll start my Homes adventure with This Book Will Save your Life.

    • Judith says:

      I do wonder about that as well, Chinoiseries! How real is the picture that Homes describes? I’ve been ignored when I had a question in an American shop but didn’t intend to buy something. But then, that can happen anywhere and will probably happen in big cities in our own country too.

      Do try This Book Will Save Your Life. It’s good!

  6. I’ve been tossing up which A.M. Homes to read first. Now I think I’ll start with this This Book Will Save Your Life (it’s been sitting at the bookstore tempting me to buy it) but May We Be Forgiven still sounds fascinating.

  7. Isi says:

    Interesting, Judith. I’ll look for it. I knew the author because I’ve seen This book will save your life in other blogs, but I think it’s now available in Spanish. So I’ll take a look on Amazon 😉

  8. I loved This Book will Save Your Life, but abandoned this one as it all seemed just the wrong side of likely. I became frustrated by the events and so gave up. I’ve since read that it is supposed to be a satire, but I didn’t get that at all. Seemed a bit weird to me, but glad you enjoyed it.

    • Leeswammes says:

      Jackie, sometimes unlikely is annoying, and sometimes it’s funny. I liked the unlikely story of The 100 Year Old Man, and I liked it in this book too. A pity you didn’t feel that way.

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