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Forgive Me: A Novel

Forgive Me: A Novel

4.6 15
by Amanda Eyre Ward

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From the acclaimed author of How to Be Lost comes a gorgeous new novel about love, memory, and motherhood.

Nadine Morgan travels the world as a journalist, covering important events, following dangerous leads, and running from anything that might tie her down. Since an assignment in Cape Town ended in tragedy and regret, Nadine has not returned to


From the acclaimed author of How to Be Lost comes a gorgeous new novel about love, memory, and motherhood.

Nadine Morgan travels the world as a journalist, covering important events, following dangerous leads, and running from anything that might tie her down. Since an assignment in Cape Town ended in tragedy and regret, Nadine has not returned to South Africa, or opened her heart–until she hears the story of Jason Irving.

Jason, an American student, was beaten to death by angry local youths at the height of the apartheid era. Years later, his mother is told that Jason’s killers have applied for amnesty. Jason’s parents pack their bags and fly from Nantucket to Cape Town. Filled with rage, Jason’s mother resolves to fight the murderers’ pleas for forgiveness.

As Nadine follows the Irvings to beautiful, ghost-filled South Africa, she is flooded with memories of a time when the pull toward adventure and intrigue left her with a broken heart. Haunted by guilt and a sense of remorse, and hoping to lose herself in her coverage of the murder trial, Nadine grows closer to Jason’s mother as well as to the mother of one of Jason’s killers–with profound consequences. In a country both foreign and familiar, Nadine is forced to face long-buried demons, come to terms with the missing pieces of her own family past, and learn what it means to truly love and to forgive.

With her dazzling prose and resonant themes, Amanda Eyre Ward has joined the ranks of such beloved American novelists as Anne Tyler and Ann Patchett. Gripping, darkly humorous, and luminous, Forgive Me is an unforgettable story of dreams and longing, betrayal and redemption.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

Ward's third novel (after How To Be Lost) parallels the twin tumults of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings in the late 1990s and protagonist Nadine Morgan's restless search for the next big story at the cost of her personal relationships. Like her namesake, South African novelist Nadine Gordimer (whom the author thanks in the acknowledgments), Nadine is a privileged white woman horrified by apartheid. A significant difference between them is that Ward's character is an outsider, an American drawn to hot spots. The novel follows Nadine as she returns to South Africa for a hearing involving a friend's sister, who murdered a white American; guilt and conviction already assured, the question is whether the perpetrator will be forgiven by the victim's grieving parents. Nadine, who must reconcile herself to her own past mistakes, is an appealingly vulnerable and complex character. Unfortunately, the two men in her life are less compelling, and chapters told by a young, mysterious narrator fit awkwardly, interrupting the narrative. Still, one cannot help but be moved by the characters' desperate desire to find peace and meaning in a bewildering world. Recommended for all libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ2/1/07.]
—Evelyn Beck

Kirkus Reviews
Always-on-the-run journalist thrill-seeker is finally forced to deal with the consequences of the horrors she loves to report. The heroine of Ward's powerful and fast-paced novel (How to Be Lost, 2004, etc.) isn't anybody's idea of a nice girl. Edging into her mid-30s, Nadine is a hotshot newspaper stringer who's always been better at escaping than living, dashing off to whatever foreign land is hosting the most saleable atrocities while ignoring family and friends. As the story begins, Nadine has just barely escaped being killed by drug traffickers in Mexico and is recuperating in her father's bed-and-breakfast in the "small and strange" Cape Cod fishing village of her childhood, "now populated by drunks and scientists." Another big story is brewing, and barely functioning Nadine is hungry to get away, this time back to South Africa, where the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is taking testimony from victims of Apartheid violence. There is a local connection-a white boy from Nadine's town who moved to one of the townships to teach was killed by a mob of blacks chanting "one settler, one bullet"-and a personal one: Nadine once lived there, and when she left, to pursue yet another story, she left behind the love of her life. Nadine's bratty and selfish behavior is on full display (in fits of adolescent pique, she tries to impress her sad and widowed father and spurned once-best friend with her worldliness) and there are flashbacks to her earlier South African sojourn, as well as episodes from the journal of the murdered boy. The flashbacks encompass an impressive amount of the country's history and cataclysmic violence; the journal episodes, meanwhile, are a distraction, the rare wrongnote in a tightly constructed and oddly romantic novel. An acute, sharp-angled love story with a rare sense of history. Agent: Michelle Tessler/Tessler Literary Agency

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Chapter One
Nadine hears the parrots. So picturesque in the evening, floating over the courtyard while she sips tequila and deciphers the day’s notes, the birds make the hot dawn intolerable. Two thin pillows cannot block the cacophony. Nadine’s sheets press against her body. She remembers the warm lips of a local journalist, but wakes alone. A room at La Hacienda Solita includes breakfast. Slowly, Nadine makes her way to the wooden table outside the kitchen. She orders eggs, beans, coffee, and juice from the girl. The juice arrives in a ceramic glass filled with ice cubes, and Nadine drinks it, though she should not. The girl—no more than ten—stands next to the table, her bare feet callused. She watches Nadine. There is a communal shower. Nadine uses Pert Plus shampoo, bought in an American Rite Aid on her way back over the border: she was in a Laredo police station when the news of the twelve dead boys came in. Nadine travels light: a comb, shampoo, lotion, lipstick. Two T-shirts, two pairs of pants, lace underwear—her one indulgence. She has an apartment in the Associated Press compound in Mexico City, but hasn’t been there in a month. On the dashboard of her rental car, Nadine finds a rubber band. She pulls her black hair back with both hands, affixes the band, and puts on sunglasses. She opens her topographic map. Today, she will find and interview the boys’ families. The mother of one boy told a local TV reporter that her son had worked in a seafood restaurant. Her large, two-story home and expensive clothes told a different story. The car’s air-conditioning is broken. Nadine punches the radio on and begins to drive. Her Spanish is good; languages have always come easily to her. She plays the music loudly and hums along. It’s a song about a man who wronged a woman. “If you come back to me,” the man sings, “I will never stray again.” She thinks of the journalist’s spicy cologne, his breath against her ear as they swayed to jukebox melodies at the cantina. She smiles. It took half a bottle of Herradura and a few kisses to get directions to the boys’ tiny village. Nadine drives slowly down the narrow streets. Men unlock metal doors and heave them upward, exposing bright fruits and vegetables, rows of shirts, videocassettes. Women sweep the sidewalk and children walk to school, holding hands. A donkey cart blocks Nadine’s way, then lurches down a side alley. Finally, she reaches the outskirts. Passing squat homes protected by latticework concrete, Nadine accelerates. The air blazing through her open window is little comfort. She heads toward the mountains. Ian made her promise to wear the bulletproof vest, but Nadine reasons that having it in the backseat is good enough. It’s heavy and bulky, and for Christ’s sake it’s got to be a hundred degrees. Nadine reaches the place she’s marked on her map with an X and pulls off the road. At a gas station, she fills the car and takes out her list of names. The man behind the counter, old and overweight, looks at Nadine without expression. He sells her a warm Coke. When she asks to use the bathroom, the man gestures with his hand. She walks behind the store, positioning her feet on either side of the fetid hole. The village does not have paved roads, and Nadine’s head begins to hurt as she drives over uneven ground. She sees a group of men gathered outside one thatched-roof home. The men stare as Nadine approaches. Nadine slows the car and tries a smile. She is met with stone faces. The thoughts flood her—Something is wrong. You should have told Ian where you were going. You should not have come alone. Back away, put on the vest—but the thoughts will fade. Nadine sets her jaw and keeps driving. The men look at one another, at the approaching Honda. By some consensus, they rush the car, and Nadine tries to stop, to reach the locks. It is too late, but she grabs the gearshift, smoothly putting the car in reverse. As she presses the gas, a tall man wearing a Cookie Monster  T-shirt opens the passenger-side door. His sweat smells metallic as he climbs in the car. He unlocks the driver’s-side door, reaching across Nadine. The door is opened from outside. Two men drag Nadine out of the car and into the street. She fights—clawing at the men with her fingernails, screaming that she is periodista, a journalist. Their fists hit her stomach, and then her rib cage. Two Nadine woke in a blue-and-white hotel room. There was a mini fridge by the bed, a painting of a sailboat on the wall, and a telephone with instructions in English. The window framed a familiar ocean. Nadine closed her eyes, then opened them. Her body ached. Her left arm was bandaged, so she lifted the phone with her right and dialed 0. A woman’s voice answered, saying, “Oh my Lord!” “Hello?” said Nadine. “Where am I?” She heard footsteps on a staircase, and then the door opened. “Oh, honey,” said a stout woman with a mushroom cap of blonde hair. “I’m sorry,” said Nadine. “Who are you?” “Oh dear,” said the woman. “Didn’t your daddy tell you?” Nadine had not spoken to her father in months, maybe a year. “Where am I?” said Nadine. “Why, honey,” said the woman, “you’re at the Sandy Toes Bed and Breakfast.” Nadine touched her temple. The last thing she could remember was a man who smelled like rust. “You’ve been in a terrible accident,” the woman said, putting a fat hand on Nadine’s wrist. “Thank goodness you had your daddy’s card in your wallet.” Nadine stared at the hand. “He’ll be here any minute,” said the woman. “By the way, my name is Gwen.” Nadine did not answer. Gwen bit her lip and then released it, leaving a bright pink spot on her tooth. “Your daddy and I are in love,” she informed Nadine. “Is there room service?” asked Nadine. “What?” “Is there room service,” said Nadine, “at the Sandy Toes Bed and Breakfast?” “Well,” said Gwen, “of course there is.” “I’d like a tequila on the rocks, please.” “It’s the middle of the day, dear,” said Gwen. “A ham sandwich, as well,” said Nadine. Nadine had not seen her father, Jim, since her journalism school graduation a decade before. After the ceremony, Nadine had taken him to the Oyster Bar for dinner. It was her favorite restaurant: dark, smoky, and, to Nadine, glamorous. She ordered oysters and an expensive bottle of wine. “I think you’ll like this,” said Nadine when the waiter began to pour. “I’ll have a Coors,” said Nadine’s father, covering his wineglass with his palm. He looked around at the businessmen and well-heeled New Yorkers. Jim wore jeans, a green windbreaker, a cap that said falmouth fish. “So I’ve decided,” said Nadine. “I’m going to Cape Town.” “Cape Town?” “I’ll be freelancing, of course, but maybe it’ll lead to a job with the AP, or the Times. People are fighting the pass laws, standing up to the government. Remember that kid from Nantucket? Jason Irving? He was killed outside Cape Town last month. Everything is changing in South Africa. There’s so much to write about.” Jim sighed. “That kid from Nantucket,” he said. “Poor kid comes home in a coffin. This is your role model?” “Dad,” said Nadine, leaning toward him, “I could be in South Africa for the fall of apartheid!” “Nadine,” said her father, “for all I know, you’re speaking Chinese.” “Come on, Dad,” said Nadine. “Don’t you get The New York Times? I renewed your subscription, I thought.” “I’m busy, honey,” said Jim. “I get home late. It’s just so much paper.” “So much paper.” The waiter returned with a tray of oysters and horseradish sauce. “Flown in this morning,” he said, “from Buzzards Bay.” He stepped back with a smile and a nod. “If oysters is what you want,” said Jim, “I’ve got a rake and a pair of waders for you in the garage.” Nadine looked down at her napkin. “I wish you could try,”  she said. She swallowed. “It’s not that Woods Hole isn’t great. I just—” “What about working for the Cape Cod Times?” said Jim. “Your mom used to read the Cape Cod Times.” Nadine sighed. She drained her wine and poured another glass. For forty minutes, they talked about housing prices on the Cape, the new pizzeria on Main Street, and the traffic problem at the Bourne Rotary. Declining dessert, Nadine gave her father a quick embrace, walked him to his Midtown hotel, and took the six train downtown. At McSorley’s, she argued passionately about the future of Romania with a grad student who smoked unfiltered cigarettes. They agreed that Ceaus¸escu’s regime was on the verge of collapse, and then pressed against each other in a dim corner, the boy’s tongue hot in Nadine’s mouth. She moved to Cape Town the following week. Ten years later, her father stood before her, his hands in what could have been the same jeans. “Hey, now, Deanie,” he said, reaching out to touch Nadine’s hair. “What am I doing here?” said Nadine. “You were in some Mexican hospital,” said Jim. “You were beaten real bad. Your wrist and ribs got bunged up, you’ve got a nasty concussion.” “How long—” “You’ll be in Woods Hole awhile,” said Jim. “Woods Hole?” said Nadine. Jim put his arm around Gwen. “You can stay here as long as you need. Gwen and I own this hotel. We open for business in May, soon as the summer folks get here.” “The Sandy Toes,” said Gwen. “I thought of the name.” “So the closest airport is Hyannis?” said Nadine. “What?” said Gwen. She looked nervously at Jim. “Nadine,” said Jim, “you likely can’t feel it, but your wrist is still very weak. Not to mention head trauma. You were attacked, Nadine, by Mexican thugs.” “Mm-hmm,” said Nadine. She reached for the phone, murmuring, “So Logan would probably be just as easy, or Providence—” “You can’t go anywhere!” said Gwen. “You’re very ill, dear!” “What the hell was she doing down next to Guat-e-amala, is what I’d like to know,” said Jim. “May I make a long-distance call, please? In private?” “Deanie,” said Jim. “Can’t you give it a rest?” “I’ll pay you back, of course,” said Nadine. “No, it’s fine,” said Gwen, flustered. “Thanks,” said Nadine. She picked up the receiver. “Maybe we can visit later,” said Gwen. Jim snorted. “Okay,” said Nadine, dialing quickly. Her father and Gwen exited the room, and Jim pulled the door shut with a thud that shook the Nantucket basket on the windowsill. “You are on mandatory vacation,” Ian said when Nadine finally reached him. In the background, Nadine heard the sounds  of the New York office: typing, shouting, televisions tuned to CNN. Nadine sighed into the phone. “I’ve got to get out of here,” she said. “You’ve been beaten within an inch of your life by Mexican drug traffickers. I talked to your doctor. You can’t even use your left arm for two weeks.” “You think they were traffickers?” “Whoever they were, they didn’t want you nosing around,” said Ian. “Some shopkeeper called the embassy. You were found in a ditch. They could have killed you.” Nadine looked out her window, at the placid sea. A large vessel, the Atlantis, was docked in the harbor. “How long?” she said. “Six months.” “Ian!” “Three months. You need to rest.” “I know you don’t believe me,” said Nadine, “but I feel fine. I do, really.” “Wander along the beach. Have an affair with a lifeguard. Whatever it takes, Nadine. Don’t call me until March.” “I can’t believe this.” Ian was silent. Nadine could picture him stroking his snow-colored moustache. “I’ve known you a long time,” he said, finally. “And I’ve told you this before. You let the wall come down, you can never go back.” “I didn’t let the wall down,” said Nadine. “Nadine, I’m trusting my gut on this one.” “What am I supposed to do all winter on Cape Cod?” “Write a novel,” said Ian. “Write a memoir about your hair-raising adventures around the world. If all else fails, watch TV.” “Lord help me,” said Nadine. “Talk to you soon,” said Ian. “Not that soon,” he added. Dr. Duarte had olive skin and a rich voice. Nadine hit mute but continued to watch Law & Order as he listed her many bruises and lacerations. “When can I get out of here?” she asked when he stopped talking. “Out of bed? A week, maybe ten days. I’m most concerned about the head trauma, and we’ll just have to keep an eye on that.” Nadine lay back and sighed. “Can you turn off the television, please?” said Dr. Duarte. Nadine hit the power button as Dr. Duarte told her how lucky she was to be alive, how her body needed time to heal. She nodded, eyes on her intertwined hands. There was a pause, and then Dr. Duarte said, “What’s it like?” Nadine looked up, into his brown eyes. “Sorry?” “What’s it like?” he said. “What does it feel like, being a reporter, putting yourself in danger? I guess I’ve always wondered what that feels like.” “You just think about what you need to do,” said Nadine. “Warnings, they come into your head, but they go away. You do your job.” Nadine’s voice sounded confident. She did not say that some evenings, after her story was filed and she was safe in a hotel room, taking a shower, her legs shook so hard she had to sit down, letting the water rain over her until she calmed. “You get used to being terrified, basically?” Nadine looked out the window. She still remembered the dark winter days of her childhood, the sense that life was happening elsewhere. The thought of staying on Cape Cod was unbearable. “When’s the last time you were terrified?” she asked. “Senior year,” said Dr. Duarte. “Right before I called to ask Suze Phillips to the prom. No, wait, my boards.” He paused. “No, Suze was scarier.” “What did she say?” “She said yes,” said Dr. Duarte. “I hung up the phone and almost cried with happiness.” “That’s it exactly,” said Nadine. “So being a globe-trotting journalist is like asking Suze Phillips to the prom,” said Dr. Duarte. “It’s like asking her, and having her say yes.” He nodded, pleased. “Well,” he said, “I’ll be back tomorrow. I can bring you some books, if you want. Might help pass the time.” “Thanks,” said Nadine. “But I’m fine, really.” “How many Law & Orders do you think you can watch?” “Seven?” said Nadine. “Maybe eight.” “Wow,” said Dr. Duarte. “My limit would probably be six.” Gwen ministered to Nadine as if she were a child home from school. She made chicken soup and lasagna. She brought gossip magazines and crossword books. She went to Wal-Mart and returned with a nightshirt featuring a grinning cat. “I’m thirty-five,” said Nadine when she opened the bag. “No one’s too old for Garfield,” said Gwen. Nadine slept and watched television. Fellow journalists and off-again lovers sent flowers. Nobody called, however: what had happened to Nadine was the thing you didn’t allow yourself to think about. All of them were playing a game of chance, and even the best luck ran out eventually. There was a point at which many took a desk job, for love or family. But Nadine, with the exception of Jim, had no family. As for love, there had been Maxim, shot by a stray bullet in Cape Flats. One love, one bullet. Nadine learned her lesson. Three

From the Hardcover edition.

Meet the Author

Amanda Eyre Ward is the award-winning author of How to Be Lost and Sleep Toward Heaven. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her family.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Forgive Me 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Amanda Ward's Forgive Me starts with a bang (or a punch, to be more precise) it grabbed me by the end of its spare and haunting three-page chapter one and never let up. Through Nadine Morgan, a journalist who returns to post-apartheid South Africa, drawn by the ghosts of her own past as well as those of the country's history, Ward delivers a story about relationships and motherhood and love, and about the temptation to forget and the redemption of remembering. A compelling, thought-provoking read!
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prettybrowneyes More than 1 year ago
This book was captivating. The author ties in the future and the present at the same time, which lead to the conclusion to the story. The main character is nonchalant, but decisive. Forgive Me is a reminder of how journalists informs the people of what's going on in our world.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
This book captured my attention from the very beginning!! I could not put it down!! Wonderfully written!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is beautifully written and touches on the wide variety of emotions a human can feel toward the very things they love, and how the very things they love can change a person's view on life completely. The honesty and raw emotions in Forgive Me leave the reader longing for more... both on the pages and in their own lives.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Nadine Morgan is a woman who can't pass up a fresh, vital new story! Her best friend, Lilly, tells her she's just running away, escaping from fear of eventually settling down. Even after Nadine is seriously injuried while covering a story in Mexico, she still feels the compulsive call of another story. For Nadine is very, very good at what she does and right now she's got a choice to make. Will she return to South Africa where Bishop Desmond Tutu's amesty trials, better known as the Truth and Reconciliation Committee hearings, are in full swing? Will she remain with Harold, the first man she could possibly see herself marrying, having children, in all settling down with? There's one particular story that's demanding her attention, the story of an American boy, Jason, who was murdered in broad daylight during a riot of furious native Africans reacting after years of apartheid brutality. Contrived as it may seem, his parents share his journal spanning his teens and young adult years with Nadine. The combination of his aspirations and the questions, fears, dreams and violence she meets on her second arrival makes for riveting albeit predictable reading. The ending, however, will leave every reader shocked and silent with the essence of just what all this contemporary violence is really about. While there may not be so much unusual in the plot line, Amanda Eyre Ward does a superb job at plumbing the depths of fury, misunderstanding, forgiveness and shared grief! The result changes Nadine's life and choices forever! Unforgettable and all too real!!! Reviewed by Viviane Crystal on February 25, 2008
harstan More than 1 year ago
Thirtyish international journalist Nadine travels the hot spots of the globe in pursut of the story. However, when she journeyed to a small village outside Mexico City to interview the parents of twelve recently murdered young boys, two thugs battered her breaking ribs and more. When Nadine regains consciousness she finds herself in the Cape Cod B&B owned by her estranged father and his fiancée. Dr. Duarte provides her needed medical care.----------------- Nadine feels this is the last place she wants to be while healing. She reads in the paper an article on a local couple traveling to Cape Town, South Africa to attend the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings. The pair needs to hear why a black woman killed their white son in 1988. Nadine feels a deep need to cover the story so without official backing, she flies to Cape Town, a place where she lost the love of her life. She meets grieving Americans who give her their late son¿s boyhood journal.------------------ FORGIVE ME is an interesting morality drama starring an interesting protagonist who believes the story comes before her safety although her Mexican incident has left her with doubts. The tale cleverly uses the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings to spotlight Apartheid, but could have been any prejudicial ism especially state sponsored. The journal that the parents give Nadine leads to her reflecting back on her failed relationships with her father and her soulmate. Although some spins feel forced and false, fans will appreciate Amanda Eyre Ward¿s deep look at motivation of individuals and countries.--------------- Harriet Klausner
GailCooke More than 1 year ago
A remarkable voice performance by actress Ann Marie Lee make this compelling story even more memorable. Her voice, is young, plaint, innocent, which makes the assault on Nadine all the more terrible. She reads the account of the beating calmly, cooly, as the author's words aptly describe the horror Nadine experiences. Had she attempted to inject fear or pain into her narration, the effect on the listener would not have been as powerful. The mark of an experienced actress! Lee has also mastered the pronunciation of Spanish names and places, adding to the story's authenticity. With an apartment in the Associated Press compound in Mexico City, which she hasn't seen in a month, Nadine is in pursuit of another story. After consulting her topographic map she drives toward a small village. She is alone, and has told no one where she is going. Stopping to ask directions she is confronted by a group of men who stare, hesitating only briefly before a tall man in a Cookie Monster T-shirt reaches into her car. In seconds the others are beating her, pounding her stomach, her rib cage. She is left to die in a ditch. It's understood that Nadine Morgan is tough, a hard nosed news hawk who will do anything, go anywhere for the all important story. Steeliness is accepted, but where is her sense? To drive into unknown terrain alone with no one knowing her whereabouts? Nonetheless, the next time she is aware she's home in Woods Hole being tended to by her father and his girlfriend. She has a brief relationship with the doctor who sees to her, but what is love compared to a big story? As the narrative switches back and forth in time and place, we hear that Nadine took her father to the Oyster Bar to tell him of her plan: 'So I've decided,' said Nadine. 'I'm going to Cape Town.' 'Cape Town?' 'I'll be freelancing, of course, but maybe it'll lead to a job with the AP, or the Times. People are fighting the pass laws, standing up to the government. Remember that kid from Nantucket? Jason Irving? He was killed outside Cape Town last month. Everything is changing in South Africa. There's so much to write about.' Jim sighed. 'That kid from Nantucket,' he said. 'Poor kid comes home in a coffin. This is your role model?' Nadine didn't find death in Cape Town - what she found was heartbreak. Her lover, Maxim, a successful photographer, was killed while at the site of a gun battle, and Jason Irving, an American teacher, was killed by a mob. Tragedy is all she discovered in Cape Town. Now, following Mexico it has been years since her first visit to Cape Town, and one of Jason's killers is scheduled for an amnesty hearing. Jason's parents are, understandably furious, and fly to Cape Town to battle for justice for their son. Nadine also returns to South Africa, hoping to interview the parents. However, she had not considered what her feelings might be for the mother of one of the killers. Amanda Eyre Ward is a crafty author - she doesn't answer questions but tells a disquieting story, leaving the listener to ponder the age old questions of forgiveness and redemption. - Gail Cooke