May We Be Forgiven

A.M. Homes
  • Review
By – April 27, 2012

This nov­el about an extreme­ly dys­func­tion­al fam­i­ly is trag­ic, yet laugh-out-loud fun­ny. It is nar­rat­ed by Harold, a mild man­nered under­achiev­ing col­lege pro­fes­sor who has­n’t yet been pub­lished and is total­ly obsessed with his sub­ject, for­mer Pres­i­dent Richard Nixon. Harold’s younger broth­er George is rich, suc­cess­ful, and a vio­lent bul­ly. When George kills a cou­ple in a car acci­dent, Harold is called upon to step in, but George’s crazy tem­per caus­es his fam­i­ly to spi­ral total­ly out of con­trol. The sto­ry begins and ends with Thanks­giv­ing, span­ning one full year.

The read­er is drawn into this tale from the very first page. Even as the scenes become more dis­turb­ing and unbe­liev­able, they are always com­pelling. The sto­ry touch­es on organ dona­tion, inter­net sex, adul­tery, men­tal insti­tu­tions, fos­ter care, child rear­ing, and old age, tak­ing us from upscale sub­ur­ban New York to colo­nial Williams­burg and South Africa.The female author por­trays Harold as a reg­u­lar flawed man so incred­i­bly real­is­ti­cal­ly. Homes’s irrev­er­ent style is rem­i­nis­cent of Jonathan Trop­per’s irrev­er­ent style in This is Where I Leave You, in which the seri­ous top­ic of sit­ting shi­va was treat­ed accu­rate­ly yet with humor. As Home­s’s sto­ry pro­gress­es, Harold becomes the head of an unusu­al mul­ti-gen­er­a­tion blend­ed fam­i­ly. He gen­er­ous­ly and sen­si­tive­ly helps each unique char­ac­ter deal with dif­fi­cult obsta­cles, while slow­ly heal­ing him­self through this process.

Miri­am Brad­man Abra­hams is a Cuban-born, Brook­lyn-raised, Long Island-resid­ing mom. She is Hadas­sah Nas­sau’s One Region One Book chair­la­dy, a free­lance essay­ist, and a cer­ti­fied yoga instruc­tor who has loved review­ing books for the JBC for the past ten years.

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