May We Be Forgiven

May We Be Forgiven

3.9 14
by A. M. Homes
     
 

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Winner of the 2013 Women's Prize for Fiction—A darkly comic novel of twenty-first-century domestic life and the possibility of personal transformation

Harold Silver has spent a lifetime watching his younger brother, George, a taller, smarter, and more successful high-flying TV executive, acquire a covetable wife, two kids, and a beautiful home in the

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Overview

Winner of the 2013 Women's Prize for Fiction—A darkly comic novel of twenty-first-century domestic life and the possibility of personal transformation

Harold Silver has spent a lifetime watching his younger brother, George, a taller, smarter, and more successful high-flying TV executive, acquire a covetable wife, two kids, and a beautiful home in the suburbs of New York City. But Harry, a historian and Nixon scholar, also knows George has a murderous temper, and when George loses control the result is an act of violence so shocking that both brothers are hurled into entirely new lives in which they both must seek absolution.

Harry finds himself suddenly playing parent to his brother’s two adolescent children, tumbling down the rabbit hole of Internet sex, dealing with aging parents who move through time like travelers on a fantastic voyage. As Harry builds a twenty-first-century family created by choice rather than biology, we become all the more aware of the ways in which our history, both personal and political, can become our destiny and either compel us to repeat our errors or be the catalyst for change.

May We Be Forgiven is an unnerving, funny tale of unexpected intimacies and of how one deeply fractured family might begin to put itself back together. 

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
It’s difficult to keep track of the number of awful things that happen to Harold Silver in the first 100 pages of Homes’s plodding latest novel. It is equally difficult to care that these things happen to him. Harold’s brother, whose anger problem is alluded to but never explicitly mentioned, goes crazy and murders his wife, among other acts of cruelty. In the wake of this tragedy, Harold is made legal guardian of his brother’s children. Harold’s life continues to unravel as he gets a divorce, loses his job, begins online dating, and endures many other crises that require intense self-reflection. Harold eventually triumphs over his various problems, evolving into the loving, supportive, and thoughtful man he’s never been, but the process feels forced, implausible, and overwrought. While Homes (The Mistress’s Daughter) successfully creates a convincing male protagonist, everything else about Harold’s story fails to persuade. If the reader was given a better sense of who Harold was before his life fell apart, we might be more invested in who he later becomes. The novel suffers from Homes’s insistence on having Harold’s life continually move from bad to worse, forgetting that sometimes less is more. Agent: Sarah Chalfant, the Wiley Agency. (Oct.)
From the Publisher
Praise for May-We Be Forgiven

"An entertaining, old-fashioned American story about second chances…A.M. Homes is a writer I'll pretty much follow anywhere because she's indeed so smart, it's scary; yet she's not without heart…May We Be Forgiven [is] deeply imbued with the kind of It's A Wonderful Lifetype belief in redemption that we Americans will always be suckers for, and rightly so." Maureen Corrigan, Fresh Air

"Cheever country with a black comedy upgrade…Homes crams a tremendous amount of ambition into May We Be Forgiven, with its dark humor, its careening plot, its sex-strewn suburb and a massive cast of memorable characters...its riskiest content, however, is something different: sentiment.- This is a Tin Man story, in which the zoned-out Harry slowly grows a heart." Carolyn Kellogg, The Los Angeles Times

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"Darkly funny…the moments shared between this ad hoc family are the novel's most endearing…Homes' signature trait is a fearless inclination to torment her characters and render their failures, believing that the reader is sophisticated enough – and forgiving enough – to tag along." --Katie Arnold-Ratliff, Time Magazine

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"Homes, whose masterful handling of suburban dystopia merits her own adjective, may have just written her midcareer magnum opus with this portrait of a flawed Nixonian bent on some sort of emotional amnesty." Christopher Bollen, Interview

"At once tender and uproariously funny…one of the strangest, most miraculous journeys in recent fiction, not unlike a man swimming home to his lonely house, one swimming pool at a time:- it is an act of desperation turned into one of grace." John Freeman, The Cleveland Plain Dealer

"A big American story with big American themes, the saga of the triumph of a new kind of self-invented nuclear family over cynicism, apathy, loneliness, greed, and technological tyranny…this novel has a strong moral core, neither didactic nor judgmental, that holds out the possibility of redemption through connection."–Kate Christensen, Elle

"Heartfelt, and hilarious…Although Homes weaves in piercing satire on subjects like healthcare, education, and the prison system, her tone never veers into the overly arch, mostly thanks to Harold – a loveably earnest guy who creates his own kind of oddball, 21st century family." –Leigh Newman, O The Oprah Magazine

"A.M. Homes has long been one of our most important and original writers of fiction. May We Be Forgiven is her most ambitious as well as her most accessible novel to date; sex and violence invade the routines of suburban domestic life in a way that reminded me of The World According to Garp, although in the end it's a thoroughly original work of imagination." –Jay McInerney

"This novel starts at maximum force - and then it really gets going. I can't remember when I last read a novel of such narrative intensity; an unflinching account of a catastrophic, violent, black-comic, transformative year in the history of one broken American family. Flat-out amazing." Salman Rushdie

"I started this book in the A.M., finished in the P.M., and couldn't sleep all night. Ms. Homes just gets better and better."-Gary Shteyngart

"What if whoever wrote the story of Job had a sense of humor?- Nixon is pondered.- One character donates her organs. -Another tries to grow a heart.- A seductive minefield of a novel from A.M. Homes." John Sayles

"I started reading A.M. Homes twenty years ago. Wild and funny, questioning and true, she is a writer to go travelling with on the journey called life." Jeanette Winterson

Library Journal
Homes (This Book Will Save Your Life) opens her new novel with two family tragedies, both involving network bigwig George Silver. George is crazy. Dangerously crazy. Kill-his-wife crazy. Altogether three children lose their parents because of George, including his two teenagers, leaving his older brother Harry to pick up the pieces. Harry has his own problems and his difficult relationship with George doesn't make things easier when he finds himself the legal guardian of his brother's children. The novel follows Harry as he learns to be a parent, friend, and all-around good guy during the year following his sister-in-law's murder. While trying to cope with the tragedies left in George's wake, Harry reaches out to other lost people and reconnects with his own family. VERDICT Although some of the situations in the novel are unbelievable and the ending a bit too tidy, the characters are well developed and credible. Grief never descends into melodrama. Recommended for readers who enjoy stories about contemporary family life. [See Prepub Alert, 4/16/12.]—Pamela Mann, St. Mary's Coll. of Maryland, St. Mary's City
Kirkus Reviews
After a grim foray into memoir, Homes (The Mistress's Daughter, 2007, etc.) returns to fiction with the tale of a beleaguered history professor. A relentless series of shocks rattles hapless narrator Harry Silver. First, his brutal younger brother, odious TV executive George, kills two people in a car crash and is committed to the local hospital's psych ward. Three nights later, George returns to find Harry in bed with George's wife, Jane, and smashes her over the head with a lamp. George is whisked off to a mental institution, brain-damaged Jane dies in the hospital, and Harry winds up as reluctant guardian of 12-year-old Nate and 11-year-old Ashley. His wife launches divorce proceedings, he loses his job, and he has a stroke. Even Richard Nixon, longtime subject of Harold's research, didn't have many months worse than this. Living in his brother's Westchester mansion and having sex with women he meets via the Internet, Harry succumbs to despair. He's adrift in a world "so new, so random and disassociated that it puts us all in danger. We talk online, we 'friend' each other….We mistake almost anything for a relationship." Yet, Harry does build an oddball community with his niece and nephew, the son of the couple George killed, the elderly parents of one of his sex partners, the owners of his favorite Westchester Chinese restaurant and the family that runs a deli across the street from the Manhattan law firm where he's reading Nixon's previously unknown fiction--made available to Harry by Julie Nixon Eisenhower, the cousin-in-law of another sex partner. They all come together (except Julie) in the novel's closing pages, which contrast their peaceful, happy Thanksgiving with the tense holiday a year earlier that foreshadowed Harry's woes. The formula of shock treatment followed by sentimental affirmation was fresher in Homes' Music for Torching (1999) and This Book Will Save Your Life (2006), and it's hard to take seriously social commentary grounded in such bizarre particulars.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780670025480
Publisher:
Viking Adult
Publication date:
09/27/2012
Pages:
496
Product dimensions:
6.40(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.56(d)

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
Praise for May We Be Forgiven

“An entertaining, old-fashioned American story about second chances…A.M. Homes is a writer I’ll pretty much follow anywhere because she’s indeed so smart, it’s scary; yet she’s not without heart…May We Be Forgiven [is] deeply imbued with the kind of It’s A Wonderful Life-type belief in redemption that we Americans will always be suckers for, and rightly so.” —Maureen Corrigan, Fresh Air

“Cheever country with a black comedy upgrade…Homes crams a tremendous amount of ambition into May We Be Forgiven, with its dark humor, its careening plot, its sex-strewn suburb and a massive cast of memorable characters...its riskiest content, however, is something different: sentiment. This is a Tin Man story, in which the zoned-out Harry slowly grows a heart.” —Carolyn Kellogg, The Los Angeles Times

“Darkly funny…the moments shared between this ad hoc family are the novel’s most endearing…Homes’ signature trait is a fearless inclination to torment her characters and render their failures, believing that the reader is sophisticated enough – and forgiving enough – to tag along.” —Katie Arnold-Ratliff, Time Magazine

“Homes, whose masterful handling of suburban dystopia merits her own adjective, may have just written her midcareer magnum opus with this portrait of a flawed Nixonian bent on some sort of emotional amnesty.” —Christopher Bollen, Interview

“At once tender and uproariously funny…one of the strangest, most miraculous journeys in recent fiction, not unlike a man swimming home to his lonely house, one swimming pool at a time: it is an act of desperation turned into one of grace.” —John Freeman, The Cleveland Plain Dealer
“A big American story with big American themes, the saga of the triumph of a new kind of self-invented nuclear family over cynicism, apathy, loneliness, greed, and technological tyranny…this novel has a strong moral core, neither didactic nor judgmental, that holds out the possibility of redemption through connection.” –Kate Christensen, Elle

“Heartfelt, and hilarious…Although Homes weaves in piercing satire on subjects like healthcare, education, and the prison system, her tone never veers into the overly arch, mostly thanks to Harold – a loveably earnest guy who creates his own kind of oddball, 21st century family.” –Leigh Newman, O The Oprah Magazine

“A.M. Homes has long been one of our most important and original writers of fiction. May We Be Forgiven is her most ambitious as well as her most accessible novel to date; sex and violence invade the routines of suburban domestic life in a way that reminded me of The World According to Garp, although in the end it’s a thoroughly original work of imagination.” –Jay McInerney
“This novel starts at maximum force — and then it really gets going. I can't remember when I last read a novel of such narrative intensity; an unflinching account of a catastrophic, violent, black-comic, transformative year in the history of one broken American family. Flat-out amazing.” —Salman Rushdie

“I started this book in the A.M., finished in the P.M., and couldn’t sleep all night. Ms. Homes just gets better and better.” —Gary Shteyngart

“What if whoever wrote the story of Job had a sense of humor? Nixon is pondered. One character donates her organs. Another tries to grow a heart. A seductive minefield of a novel from A.M. Homes.” —John Sayles

“I started reading A.M. Homes twenty years ago. Wild and funny, questioning and true, she is a writer to go travelling with on the journey called life.” —Jeanette Winterson

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Meet the Author

A. M. Homes is the author of the memoir The Mistress’s Daughter and the novels This Book Will Save Your Life, Music for Torching, The End of Alice, In a Country of Mothers, and Jack, as well as the story collections The Safety of Objects and Things You Should Know. She lives in New York City.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
New York, New York
Date of Birth:
December 18, 1961
Place of Birth:
Washington, D.C.
Education:
B.A., Sarah Lawrence College, 1985; M.F.A., University of Iowa Writers¿ Workshop

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May We Be Forgiven 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book. It is an exception piece of fiction, a year the life of a man, who finally finds a family. This is not a book with lofty pretentious prose meant to impress. It is better than that--it is a story well told and some that brings tears to the eyes without being sentimental. I also loved the Richard Nixon tie-in. Highly recommended.
bellykiss More than 1 year ago
I actually felt like I was living that whole year with the protagonist of the story and sincerely wishing for the best for that character.
mel-on More than 1 year ago
A very funny, almost tongue in cheek book about a grown man's coming of age, and the people that get him there. Rich characters populate a story with several laugh out loud moments. Strongly recommend.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a great book; it reminds me a little of Dave Eggars and/or Jess Walter, two of my favorites. Lots of intricate relationships and an overall sweet story, although the author has some dark moments. Loved it!
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gedCA More than 1 year ago
"They were absent children, absent of personality, absent of presence, and, except for holidays, largely absent from the house."—page 10 Perhaps no effort or experience is ever really a complete waste of time, but reading this novel, MAY WE BE FORGIVEN, by A. M. Homes—the narrative of which mostly oscillates in a range from 'lame and unpleasant' to outright 'stupid and disgusting'—comes very close. Recommendation: I'm sorry I read it. And, now that I have, I'd be ashamed to recommend it to anyone else. NOOKbook from Barnes & Noble, 468 pages
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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