Book Review: May We Be Forgiven by A. M. Homes
January 2, 2013 16 Comments
As 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
Have you read this book?
What did you think?