Book Review: May We Be Forgiven

Nov 19, 2012

I chose this book for its cover. Gelatinous cranberry sauce, still holding its can-shaped form on a white plate. It screamed Thanksgiving.

May We Be Forgiven by A.M. Homes begins on Thanksgiving one year, and ends on Thanksgiving the next. It's the year in between that is this novel, the story of the remaking of Harry Silver. Harry has always lived his life in the shadow of his younger, anger-ridden brother, George. One rage-filled incident by George not only causes bodily harm to an innocent couple, but is also catalyst to a chain reaction that becomes a year of transformation for Harry. But Harry's not exactly an innocent pawn in the game. It's almost like push comes to shove between the two brothers, and Harry's move is equally deadly and irreversible.  Between Thanksgivings, Harry's life is filled with a litany of incredible occurrences. In addition to a fatal car accident, we can add mental hospitalization, infidelity, murder, divorce, adoption, a stroke, boarding school, rebuilding a village in Africa, a bar mitzvah, elderly care, and the completion of a historical biography of Richard Milhous Nixon. Harry's transformation is most evident through the dialogue on the page. I almost gave up on the book because I found the conversation stilted. At first I attributed it to poor writing, but Homes was merely showing us the soulless being that is Harry. As he grew as an individual, and as head of a new modern family, the writing became not only more tolerable, but also remarkable. As each new trial was piled on to the next, I'd ask, "Really?!" But I'd keep reading because it was a train wreck from which I could not turn away. It still considered schadenfreude if the misery you're enjoying belongs to fictional characters? If so, then may I be forgiven.