FINALIST FOR THE NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD
FINALIST FOR THE LOS ANGELES TIMES BOOK PRIZE
CHICAGO TRIBUNE FAVORITE FICTION OF THE YEAR
O, THE OPRAH MAGAZINE TEN TERRIFIC READS OF THE YEAR
A WASHINGTON POST BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR
A KANSAS CITY STAR 100 BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR
Patsy MacLemoore, a twenty-eight-year-old history professor with a brand-new Ph.D. and a wild streak, wakes up in jailyet againafter another epic alcoholic blackout. This time, though, a mother and daughter are dead, run over in Patsy's driveway. Patsy will the next decades of her life atoning for this unpardonable act. She goes to prison, sobers up, marries a much older man she meets in AA, and makes ongoing amends to her victims' family. Then, another piece of news turns up, casting her crime, and her life, in a different and unexpected light. Brilliant, morally complex, and often funny, Blame is a breathtaking story of contrition and what it takes to rebuild a life from the bottom up.
|Edition description:||First Edition|
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About the Author
Michelle Huneven is the author of two previous novels, Round Rock and Jamesland. She has received a General Electric Foundation Award for Younger Writers and a Whiting Writers' Award for fiction. She lives in Altadena, California.
Read an Excerpt
By Michelle Huneven
Farrar, Straus and GirouxCopyright © 2009 Michelle Huneven
All rights reserved.
The first thing Millicent Hawthorne did after scheduling her surgery was to enroll her daughter Joey in a summer typing class at the local high school. Joey was twelve and had never set foot in a public school, but she'd refused to go to camp that year, and Millicent wanted her occupied.
First-level typing was at the end of a long corridor in a double-sized classroom where hulking blue typewriters with blank keys sat on each desk. A wall of windows overlooked a courtyard of blooming roses.
Although she would not make a single friend among them, Joey was intrigued by her fellow typists, especially the girls with their defiantly short skirts, long, straight hair, and expert makeup. How could they be so easy with one another? They tried to draw Joey into their huddles at the break, then left her alone, for which she was grateful.
Joey was instantly good at typing, surprising herself. She assumed she'd be bored by its lack of content. Typing, she found, was like playing the piano, minus the tones. A-S-D-F-J-K-L-Sem caught in her head like an arcane chant, a secret alphabet. Class got out at eleven fifty-five, and Marlene, the Hawthornes' housekeeper, would be waiting out front in her red VW station wagon. Together, they drove back to the house, where Marlene made crustless ham and butter sandwiches, one of the few things Joey would eat at that time.
The first week Joey was in typing class, her mother had a radical mastectomy. The doctors, claiming success, sent her home. When Joey went in to say hello, Millicent, an athletic six foot one, now seemed like a small, folded-up packet of herself, with eyes so sunken, Joey saw the contours of her skull. Millicent reached out a hand, and Joey, taking it, experienced the curious sensation of having her legs turn into water. The home nurse said she'd fainted, but Joey insisted that she never lost consciousness.
It soon became obvious that something more than pain was impeding Millicent's recovery. She went back into the hospital, and the doctors found a system-wide fungus and a new, invasive form of cancer in her spine.
Because Joey had collapsed after her mother's first surgery, she was not allowed to visit, at least not until Millicent had recovered somewhat. Joey had no doubt this would come to pass, because nobody told her otherwise and because one night her father asked her to help him pick out a gift for her mother's birthday four months away. They decided on an add-a-diamond necklace from the Gump's catalog, clearly a gift for someone with many birthdays to come.
During her fifth, penultimate week of typing, Joey walked out of the old brick high school to find not Marlene, but her tall, dazzling uncle Brice leaning against his Studebaker pickup.
Hi, beautiful, he said. Marlene was running an errand, he explained; Joey's father and grandmother were at the hospital. And I, he said, am at your service.
The family had drifted so rapidly into extremity that their long-held rules — no public schools, no discussing problems — had given way like spiderwebs. Thrilled as she was to have her renegade uncle fetch her from school like a common babysitter, Joey knew slippage when she saw it.
Brice was her mother's kid brother. He was twenty-eight and had already burned through his inheritance, more than a million dollars. Joey's father, in rare good humor on the subject, said that it was breathtaking and almost admirable how Brice, in an attempt to recoup the initial heart-stopping losses, had managed to obtain and lose trust money he wasn't even due to receive until he was thirty-five.
Brice was six foot four, with dark gold hair, overly tanned skin, and a nose he referred to as "the big old hook." Joey loved him thoroughly and irrationally and planned to marry him the moment she turned twenty-one and came into her own trust fund. (She'd heard there were states in the Deep South where uncle and niece might wed.) Joey dreamed of restoring Brice to the lifestyle and financial bracket where he rightfully belonged, although she also imagined dispatching her money with the same profligacy with which he'd already flown through his, if only for the sheer, exhilarating blur of it.
Clutching her flat typing manual against her chest, too smitten to speak, Joey climbed into the tobacco-scented cab of the rare Studebaker and Brice drove them to the Bellwood Hotel for lunch.
* * *
Joey's parents' best friends, Cal and Peggy Sharp, owned the Bellwood. Cal had inherited it from his father, and did what he could to keep it running in a town where the Sheraton, Hilton, and Doubletree had cornered the convention trade. Cal shut down two floors, rented residential suites to wealthy widows, booked offbeat conventions (rare books dealers, grandfather clock collectors), and housed two private clubs: the Downtown Club, where membership could be purchased, and the more exclusive, invitation only, Mojave Club.
Joey's father, Frank Hawthorne, was on the board of the Mojave Club, and the Hawthornes used the Bellwood as their second residence. Whenever Millicent called in the painters at home — she did that a lot — the Hawthornes moved en masse to the Bellwood's penthouse. And until their large, architecturally significant but deeply flawed glass-and-concrete foothill home had air-conditioning installed, the family sought refuge in those refrigerated rooms during heat waves. Frank and Millicent Hawthorne were both famous for their tempers; each time one or the other stormed out of the house, Joey and her two brothers knew where to find them.
The July day Brice drove Joey to the Bellwood, it was a hundred degrees out, dry and bright and as still as glass.
Brice was not a member of the Mojave Club. He never could've managed dues, even if he'd finagled an invitation. But with Joey trotting alongside, he headed straight into the Mojave dining room with its filigreed columns and mahogany wainscoting. The tables were padded and double clothed, the sterling polished, the water glasses heavy. Huffy, the Mojave's maître d', glided toward them on the diagonal in an attempt to steer Brice toward a middle table, but Brice sailed past to claim a coveted window booth.
Since returning from his four-year international spending spree last January, Brice had worked for Cal Sharp, who also owned the Lyster apartments on Avalon Street, where Brice was the resident manager and renovator. The Lyster had seen better days, and Brice's job was to reverse its course. Joey's father referred to the four-story faux château as "the ever-listing Lyster." Hello there, Brice, he'd greet his brother-in-law. How's life at the ever-listing Lyster?
The waiter brought Brice a beer in a V-shaped pilsner glass and Joey a Coke in a brandy snifter, her preferred glassware of the moment. She was just beginning to wonder what she and Brice would say to each other when she heard her name.
Joey, my girl. Cal Sharp stood over her, tall and important in his silvery suit and matching hair. His wide hand cradled the back of her head. His cologne was sharp, citric; and his other hand, resting on the tablecloth, was perfectly manicured, the nails pink and so smooth. You just missed March and Stan. They were here for breakfast, he said quietly, his grip tightening on her scalp. They'll sure be sorry they missed you.
March was Joey's age, but Stan, two years older, had been her great companion growing up, until he became a tennis star last year. At the Mojave Spring Fling he and Joey had ditched March and climbed up the fire escape to sit, swinging their legs off the side. There, Stan explained that if they were seen together so much at the club, people would think they were boyfriend and girlfriend. And while they would always be friends, he wanted a different kind of girl for a girlfriend, a pretty girl with long blond hair who was also an excellent tennis player.
You doing all right there, sweetheart? Cal murmured, leaning down. Everything okay?
His large male face so close to hers made it impossible to speak. Cal Sharp had never taken such notice of her before. And his eyes were growing red around their rims.
We're all praying for your mom, he said quietly. You know that, we're praying as hard as we can.
Oh. Her mom. That's right.
Most remarkably yet, Cal kissed her forehead. Then he kept his hand on the back of her head and talked to Brice about awnings for the Lyster's south- facing windows.
The waiter brought Brice a small club steak with french fries and Joey a crustless ham and butter sandwich. Joey hadn't been to the Bellwood since rejecting lettuce some days back, and seeing the thin green line dividing the pink meat and the white bread, she slid into what her mother called a fit. Joey never agreed with this term. Wasn't a fit some kind of muscle-flapping thrashing about? Whereas, when faced with the insurmountable, she simply froze for anywhere from a minute to an hour. There was no predicting it. Most episodes were brief, brought on by a food or something mean one of her brothers said. Her mother, who was often the only person to notice, was always enraged by what she felt was Joey's willfulness. But Joey really could do nothing other than wait for the so-called fit to pass, as she did now, with Cal Sharp's large hand cupping her head while he and Brice debated whether to buy striped or solid canvas. Cal, noting her untouched plate, tousled her hair. Forgive me, he said. I'll let you two eat.
Not hungry, baby? Brice said when they were alone. Want some steak?
Joey shook her head. Brice ate a couple of fries and glanced at his watch. I have to make a phone call. I'll be right back.
Alone, Joey pushed her sandwich aside and stole two of Brice's fries. The waiter removed the sandwich and, with a wink, set down a thick glass cup of pineapple sherbet, cold and perfect, tasting like snow.
Soon the waiter took Brice's steak away and returned it wrapped in foil in the shape of a swan. Joey took the swan, signed the check, and went looking for her uncle. He wasn't in any of the phone booths. She told the concierge, If Uncle Brice is looking for me, I'm in the ladies' snooker room.
The women in the Mojave Club used the ladies' book-lined snooker room for meetings. The snooker table was gone, replaced by big, comfortable chairs that pitched you back so far it was hard to get out of them. A large volume devoted to Michelangelo sculptures sat on the coffee table. Joey took this up, intending to continue her ongoing study of male anatomy.
Today, however, she paused at the Pietà, one of the few women in the whole book. Mary wore nunlike robes with beautiful folds and had Jesus' skinny dead body draped across her lap. People always referred to Joey's mother as "statuesque," but here was an actual statue, and it had nothing in common with Millicent Hawthorne. Mary seemed so delicate and calm, completely unlike Millicent, who always looked angry, although she always denied it.
Millicent had never fussed over Joey. She was an impatient mother who brushed Joey's fine hair roughly and tied her shoes and sashes with quick, harsh tugs. The two spent little time together; they never cuddled or confided in each other. Joey, in fact, made it a point to stay out of her mother's way so as not to annoy or inadvertently antagonize her. Yet despite the mutually cultivated wide, empty spaces between them, Joey was connected to her mother as if by a fine silver wire. If her father spoke angrily to Millicent, Joey burst into tears. If her brothers back-talked, Joey bristled in her mother's defense — she would not have been at all surprised to learn that she experienced her mother's feelings more keenly than her mother did. That day when Millicent came home from the hospital and Joey took her hand, Joey had inhaled both the dry, sickly-sweet must of sickness and her mother's terror, and it was more than she could bear.
Joey wandered again past the phone booths and over to the elevators. She pressed the button and considered going up to the roof to stick her feet in the pool, but when the elevator doors opened, out stepped Uncle Brice. Oh! There you are, he said jauntily. What shall we do now? How about a movie?
She wanted to go home, change out of her stupid school clothes. But going to the movies and sitting next to Brice in the dark was irresistible.
The Sound of Music was playing at the Big Oaks Revival House. Brice bought a tub of buttered popcorn, half a pound of Raisinets, and a box of ice-cream bonbons. During the previews he nosed the big old hook through Joey's hair until it rested against her ear. I'll be right back, he whispered, and stacked all the food on her lap.
Joey couldn't concentrate. She was embarrassed by the clumsy way that Julie Andrews ran, and by the fake way the nuns broke into song. She kept turning to see if Brice was coming back. There were only three other people in the theater, two men and an older woman who was eating noisily. Then cool moisture oozed from the box of ice-cream bonbons and some of it went on her skirt. Setting everything down on the sticky floor, Joey left for the ladies' room.
Nobody was in the lobby or at the candy counter. She ran upstairs to the lounge and sponged her skirt with a paper towel. She did not want to see the rest of the movie, but there was nothing to do in the lobby, so she returned to her seat and practiced typing on her knees — transcribing the movie as fast as she could.
* * *
The ticket takers and countermen were back at their stations, and still Brice had not come. She studied the movie posters in the lobby until people arrived for the second matinee, and she kept studying them as they stood in line and bought their snacks. When the lobby was empty again, she decided to call both hospitals in town to see if Brice was in an emergency room. Since she had no money with her and was too shy to ask for any, she decided to walk back across town to the Bellwood, where Huffy would let her use the phone, if he wasn't too angry about the steak-filled swan she'd left in the ladies' snooker room.
Joey set off down Green Street in the dusty, late afternoon heat. She'd gone about five blocks when the Studebaker pulled up alongside her. Patsy, Brice's girlfriend, smiled in the passenger seat. Hey there, she said.
The truck's door swung open. Patsy had long yellow-blond hair and long, tanned legs and a wide, happy smile that revealed all her perfect, straight teeth. She taught history at a local college, though Joey's father said she didn't look like any history professor he ever had.
Patsy kissed the side of Joey's head. Hi, kitten, she said. How was the movie? Ridiculous drivel? Yeah.
Show her what we got for her, said Brice, and Patsy handed Joey a tiny black velvet box.
Inside was a necklace — a small oval glass pendant on a thin gold chain, with matching oval earrings. All three ovals contained the same picture: the black silhouette of a palm tree and grass shack set against an orange sunset — exactly the South Sea paradise where, Joey imagined, Brice used to live.
Here, Patsy said. I'll fasten it. Her long nails grazed Joey's neck.
Look, Patsy said, and parted Joey's blouse at the neck so Brice could see the pendant. You're prettier every day, Patsy said. Isn't she, Brice?
Brice said, I've been in love with Joey since the day she was born.
Were they drunk? Both held bottles of beer between their knees.
Darn, Brice. Her ears aren't pierced. Well, that's easy enough. Patsy threw an arm around Joey's shoulder. We'll exchange these for the un- pierced kind.
Or I could get my ears pierced, Joey said. She'd asked to have them done this summer, but her mother said pierced ears were primitive and low-class.
Patsy squeezed her shoulder. They were driving east now, away from the Bellwood, school, home, everyplace Joey knew. Aren't we going to my house? she asked.
I have to stop in at work, said Brice.
He pulled up before the four-story white building, with its skinny turrets and pointy roof. Ah, said Joey, the ever-listing Lyster.
Brice and Patsy burst out laughing. We know whose daughter she is, Brice said.
Excerpted from Blame by Michelle Huneven. Copyright © 2009 Michelle Huneven. Excerpted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Reading Group Guide
Questions for Discussion
1. How were you affected by the shift from Joey's world to Patsy's? What does the closing line of part one (capturing Joey's belief that her mother had not died but was alive and well at the Bellwood Hotel) say about the nature of hope, illusion, and grief?
2. How did your impressions of Patsy change throughout Blame? What cultural shifts does she experience over the novel's two decades?
3. Were you surprised that Patsy was a high achiever in academia? What makes history an appropriately ironic field for her?
4. When you first read about Patsy's sentencing, did you think it was just? Did prison seem like an appropriate consequence? Given today's drunk driving laws and treatment options, does her sentence seem light or extreme?
5. Behind bars, what version of a family does Patsy find? How do her tenuous friendships there compare to her relationships with her mother, father, and brother?
6. Why is it noteworthy that Jane and Jessica Parnham were Jehovah's Witnesses? How does Mark seem to feel about their faith?
7. What is Mark Parnham's motivation in visiting Patsy? How are they affected by each other?
8. How do Patsy's days with the firefighting crew serve as a metaphor for her life? What does Martin's crayon drawing of a stick figure dousing burning trees (described near the end of part two) indicate about his understanding of Patsy?
9. What is ideal about the support provided by Brice and Gilles? How do Gilles and Patsy bond, and why do they become such good friends? What is the role of Alcoholics Anonymous in Patsy's life?
10. Discuss the other approaches to sobriety Patsy experiences, including deprivation in prison; accountability to her parole officer, Jeffrey Goldstone; and sessions with Mrs. Silver. Why does she succeed in staying sober?
11. How is Patsy influenced by her ESL students? What common ground does she share with them?
12. How does Patsy's marriage to Cal compare to her earlier relationship with Ian? What does she want in a relationship? How does her understanding of love change throughout the novel?
13. At the end of chapter 26, Cal tells Patsy that no matter what the truth is about the Parnham deaths, "what happened got you to where you needed to be." Ultimately, what did it take for her to get sober?
14. Much of Patsy's adult life has been spent in atoning for the deaths of Jane and Jessica Parnham. What were the various aspects of her atonement? Were any aspects regrettable or unnecessary?
15. How did the revelations about Bill Hogue transform your understanding of the novel? What does his crime indicate about the way society handles retribution and other morality-based "debts"?
16. Discuss the novel's title. Why was Patsy so willing to accept the blame for the accident? How much blame is she willing to relinquish? Where should the blame for the Parnham deaths lie?
17. How does Blame amplify the themes explored in Michelle Huneven's previous novels? What are the hallmarks of her storytelling style?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
What a boring snooze, after the first two parts. It was so predictable and all the characters were so one note. They are all beautiful and have endless supplies of money and privilege. Why couldn't Patsy have been relegated to a life of linoleum and public transportation? Why didn't anything really happen? I'm supposed to feel bad for her because she resists an affair when she's married? And then we see that the man, her soulmate! has continued to carry a torch for her, after all these years. All the years she "suffered" with her older, wealthy (amazing good looking and virile) husband, expensive horses, organic garden and huge ranch dubbed the "Ponderosa". But inside she's felt blamed. Horrors! She was a drunk who thought she ran down and killed two people! She couldn't even remember! And aside from a few chapters about a short stint in prison (she gets blisters!), she suffers and struggles -- not at all. Upon her release there's a picturesque apartment, a colorful assortment of educated, wealthy friends, very cheap therapy and a seemingly well-paying job waiting for her. Oh, and I can't forget her thick, long, blonde hair which seems to stay with her even as she hits 50. She does lop it off in a soapy, sappy scene seemingly staged for a screenplay -- Charlize Theron maybe? I'm sure the hack job managed to look elegant, somehow. Couldn't she have any tribulations? A mole? A nasty prison scar? It's set in the 80s, so there are even the over-the-top gay characters, one of whom dies graciously of AIDS. I was stoked to read this book. It got so many good reviews. There were little bits that were brilliant, like a letter an old friend writes to Patsy when she's making her amends. These little sparks kept me going until the end, but it was really an intellectual's fairy tale. Ooh, look at the PhD with the DUI -- she didn't get to reproduce. Waaa, waaa. She'll have to settle for her land (enough to accommodate 2 horses and a barn) in Southern California and a successful career. The children were written by someone who does not have or know any. They were either amazingly wise and beautiful. (The clue is their "curls") or spoiled brats throwing tantrums that are indulged by the caricatured parents of today. This was trying to be Ian McEwan and falling way short. Read him instead. Atonement and On Chesil Beach are honestly touching and romantic and heartbreaking. Wow. I didn't realize how MUCH I didn't like this book until I decided to write this review.
This book is not a murder mystery or fast-paced. It is the story of a woman who kills two Jehovah Witnesses because she is driving drunk. The book is about her life since that occurred and how she deals with guilt and the choices she makes. This is a totally character-driven story so if you don't like the characters, specifically Patsy, the main character, then you will not like the book or care about her choices. Critics keep mentioning the "twist" in the novel and they should stop because that pretty much gives it away. Plus, it's not all that dramatic. I suspected it almost from the beginning. The choices she made after the "twist" she may have made anyway. This is a very low-key novel, very well-written, interesting. The author made an unusual choice in not using quotation marks for dialogue. I often found that somewhat annoying and confusing because I wasn't sure if someone had said something aloud or if it was a mental comment. However, it did work with book to underscore its muted tone. Patsy is a woman who gave up some of her vivacity and personality when she gave up alcohol. Or is it because she is dealing with her guilt that she feels the need to be tamped down? Good discussion book.
I am surprised by the people who thought this book was boring, but would suggest that one gets out of a book what one brings to the experience. I thought the book was well written, but also echo the sentiments of the reviewer who was annoyed by the lack of punctuation to indicate dialogue.
Story was more of an "overview" than an in-depth character-driven story. Not much detail placed on Patsy's rise and fall and rise again. More character development and detail would have aided this story. I felt absolutely nothing during Patsy's trying times whereas if more depth were added, I could have felt like I was "inside" the story instead of floating on top of it. Wished this would have gone deeper.
I thought this was a great story. Patsy shows us how to live life on life's terms ~ something some folks (like me!) need to be reminded of every day.
I enjoy reading memoirs, and thought this would be a good life story although fiction. Overall a good read, but I felt that with this type of story line the remorse was never really explored and the important factor in this woman's life after prison - recovery in AA wasn't quite developed either.
So my review of this novel is kind of like reviewing an old friend because I¿ve been reading this book over the course of the last couple months for my Novel Writing class. Reading something over a couple months span I¿ve realized has its pros. I feel like I have a really firm grasp on this novel and the characters because I¿ve spent so much time with it. For my class, I had to break down the novel and really spend an adequate amount of time with the chapters analyzing plot, character, pacing etc. Normally I don¿t spend that much time with a novel so I feel like this might just be one of the most well informed reviews I¿ll ever have up here. The Good: Michelle Huneven really knows how to develop memorable characters. Joey, Brice, Patsy and Gilles are brilliant characters. Huneven takes her time developing them and by the end of the novel, Patsy pretty much jumps off the pages. I love the concept of Blame because it¿s based on a situation that could (and probably has) happened. A woman gets black out drunk and runs over two people killing them. It¿s not an overly abnormal situation, it¿s happened and it¿s not too hard to imagine a situation like that happening to someone today. Huneven takes this reality and really delves into the consequences with Patsy. We get a real sense of what prison is like for someone like Patsy and we learn how someone might handle their guilt and transition into society after their prison term has ended. We learn that Patsy settles for things in life that she normally wouldn¿t have just because she feels it¿s all she deserves. It¿s a way to punish herself, to remind herself of the crime she committed. I love the slight but powerful nod to the gay community and the start of the HIV virus that Huneven slides into the story. She also throws an enormous wrench in the plot towards the end that is crazy awesome and makes the story that much more deep and meaningful. I also thought Huneven did well adding comic relief to the parts that were a little depressing. It¿s not a book I felt utterly sad about when I was done. I felt a sense of accomplishment when it was over. I also thought the ending was very well done. It wraps up the loose ends but not in the ¿everything-ends-so-perfectly¿ way.The Bad: Nothing really negative to say about the novel except that I HATE IT when authors don¿t put dialogue in quotations. I don¿t know why it irritates me as much as it does, but really¿. That¿s why the quotations were made. What is the reasoning behind not using them? It bugs the crap out of me. But that really is just a nit-picky detail. I really don¿t have anything else negative to say about it. Overall, I really thought this was a great book. It was well written, the plot and characters were fully and wonderfully developed and it was really a polished piece of literature. I give it an A!
Giving this book 2 stars was generous of me. I really couldn't be bothered with it which is why it took me so long to finish it. It's upsetting since I wanted to read it FOREVER and then to dislike it so much. Maybe, just maybe my expectations were a little too high.The story is about a woman who was charged with murder and how she dealt with the consequences through her life.Also, I didn't like the author's writing style, it aggravated me the whole time.
Woman convicted of killing two people while driving drunk goes to jail and gets out again. Reminiscent of Carolyn See.
Huneven's story of an alcoholic and her redemption years later is excellent.
Patsy wakes up in a jail cell to find out she's killed two people while driving drunk. After serving time in jail, Patsy must adjust to life after such a horrible experience and the guilt she feels. One of my biggest problems with this book is the fact that it tells you there's a "huge twist" on the dust jacket. Once you start reading it you are just waiting for the twist, which is obvious from the start, but doesn't happen until almost the end of the book. I was incredibly disappointed that the publishers had decided to market the book this way. Other than that it was good. To me it really wasn't the book I was expecting though, because it deals with so many issues at once. Alcoholism, AIDS, adultery, prison, homosexuality, psychiatry, blended families, treatment of prisoners and their reintegration into society and more. It's a lot to take in, but it's a quick read and there are some great characters. I particularly loved Patsy's friend Gilles. There aren't any "good" or "bad" characters, instead there are flawed people who have all made mistakes. I liked this book, and it definitely made me think, but I had too many problems with it to rate it any higher.
I agree with several of the reviews below. I liked the book, couldn't love it. I enjoyed the interplay among several of the characters, especially Gilles, and Joey. I saw the ending coming a mile away. It did stay with me a while, as it did cause me to ponder what roll Patsy did play in the deaths. Worth reading.
Interesting story about the effects of guilt and the struggle to find a new "normal" after you've caused the unthinkable. Patsy, by all accounts a happy drunk, wakes up in jail after yet another alcohol-induced blackout. This time, however, she is told she killed a mother and daughter in a car accident. Sentenced to prison, the book follows her time there and then her life after her release. After many years the complete story of the car accident is told, and Patsy must now come to terms with the new information. While I thought Ms. Huneven could have delved deeper in some places (After so many years of profound alcoholism, could Patsy really just decide to stop drinking and never be so much as tempted again?), I thought the book overall told a compelling, thought-provoking story. It elicits good discussion about guilt, regrets, and the pivotal moments that can define one's life.
One of the best books I have read all year!!! I can identify with the characters in this book. Huneven is a remarkable writer and had me turning the pages faster than I have turned them before. Will make you think twice about drinking and driving.
Patsy is a professor who teaches history at the local college. Patsy drinks alot and ends up killing two people after a night of heavy drinking. Patsy blacked out and remembers nothing of what happened. She goes to prison and reluctantly becomes involved in the AA group there. She does her time, gets out, and starts a new life for herself. It is difficult, but she manages to start over. I really wanted to love this book and I started out really liking it. I had a hard time believing the man whose family she killed would forgive her so easily and start a friendship with her. Patsy was also hard to like sometimes, as was her jerk of a husband, Cal. There is a twist towards the end of the book, which I liked, but it was also rather frustrating. The ending just didn't work for me, but I liked the book....just didn't love it.
Huneven's depiction of Patsy's drinking is unflinching. After a drunken bender, she finds that she has killed a mother and daughter. She is sentenced to prison, negotiates her way in prison, makes a real friend and ends up on fire detail where she becomes strong and self-reliant. I admired Patsy and her capacity to go on with her life, be a friend and to be a person of integrity. I didn't feel that AA was her salvation but that it came from within and AA gave structure where it was needed. I like the book and admired Patsy for her ability to survive, reflect and end up strong but still vulnerable and caring.
Contrary to most of the reviews posted on this book, I didn't find this story to be as spellbinding and thought provoking as other reviewers. The book has potential, but it misses the mark. The first chapter attempts to give background information for the main plot, but it focuses on the wrong character. After reading the first chapter, I thought the story was going to focus on Joey Hawthrone, but it turns out that it is really about Patsy, an alcoholic college professor who wakes-up in jail, from a drunken stupor, and discovers she is being charged with murder. Patsy goes to prison, begins her rehabilitation, and finds forgiveness in the most unlikely place. At this point, the story losses momentum and lingers on less "important" events in Patsy's life. The author tries to go for a surprise ending, but it was not believable. I gave it three stars, because I think the book has a good overall message- people can change, rehabilitate, and find forgiveness. However, I didn't find the characters engaging and thought the writing was a bit "scattered."
Patsy has been a drunk all her life. She is rich and spoiled. She wakes up accused of murdering two people and goes to jail. Really good coversations and cool gay friend. But, looking just for love in the end gets hard to believe.
I loved this book; the main character was very well drawn and the writing was excellent. The story draws you in from the first page to the last.
Blame is the story of an alcoholic history professor, Patsy MacLemoore and her attempt to correct the wrongs in her life. Huneven took her time with the first couple chapters introducing us to characters important in Patsy's life. While I felt it was a bit slow in the beginning the story does take off and I found I did not want to put this book down. One accident really set the tone for Patsy's life. Huneven does a great job with the development of Patsy and truly caught me off guard with the ending.While this is a work of fiction it is very realistic and at times reads like a memoir. I liked this book and I do recommend it.
Patsy, a history professor with a drinking problem, wakes up in jail and has no memory of the previous evening. She ends up going to prison because of her actions. She's not very likable at first, but you grow to root for her. She tries to turn her life around after priso,n but the guilt weighs her down for the rest of her life. It shows how your life can change in an instant based on one decision or action.
I had seen this one around a few blogs but I was not looking forward to reading it at all when it arrived on my doorstep. I am the grandchild of an alcoholic and even went to an Al-Anon meeting as a teenager (perhaps this one time visit is the source of my long term distrust of anything that smacks of self-help or psychiatry). So the whole premise of the book was a little close to home. That said, I ended up quite enjoying it.Opening with Joey's confused summer the summer her mother died of cancer, the novel introduces Joey's appealing uncle Brice and his good-time girlfriend Patsy, both of whom are so out of their league watching Joey and self-absorbed that they mistakenly allow her to get high. Cut to Book Two and Patsy, a college professor, is coming to with a nasty hangover. She's in the local drunk tank, a place she's been in before, but this time her drunken misdeeds are not being treated as lightly as usual. Apparently, during her blackout, in her own driveway, she hit and killed a mother and young daughter, Jehovah's Witnesses who were just leaving her house after dropping off some leaflets. Patsy does her time in prison and comes back to regular life having resisted and then finally surrendered to AA, filled with remorse and regret. She builds her life around the truth of her actions and the results of what she did that night still so troublingly missing from memory. Ultimately, Patsy meets and marries Cal, the local AA superstar, sponsor extraordinaire, and widower with children. She changes who she was in spirit and finds forgiveness even if her life still centers around her guilt and atonement.The novel jumps in time from each situation in Patsy's life but the missing pieces are easily inferred and reasonable as the reader watches Patsy build a whole new life for herself. The secondary characters are well-fleshed out and realistic. Starting with the section on Joey is perhaps a mistake as she is mostly absent from the book, which she should be since the story is really Patsy's, but what Joey witnesses when she is stoned out of her little mind does come full circle in the end, neatly tying the book's beginning and ending together.The revelation about Patsy's drunken accident, near the end of the book, is certainly cataclysmic but it is somehow not entirely unexpected by that time either. And the way it forces Patsy to reevaluate her life again, as the immediate aftermath of the accident did once before, lends a balance to the plotting. The book was a bit unrealistic and shiny, happy in its portrayal of recovering alcoholics but it was fascinating to see the way that Cal shifted his addiction to the rush of AA meetings and that Patsy never called him on it because she was so busy with her own repentance, feeling that she had to be perfect and non-confrontational. This is much more a character study, with Patsy examining her life and coming to grips with who she is, rather than the thriller hinted at in marketing blurbs. It is a rather quiet but thoughtful and well-written book that happens to hinge on an horrific accident. This book will stay with you long after you close the back cover so don't be scared off by less than appealing jacket copy or the idea that this is full of suspense. Rather it is an engrossing and compelling read.
Great book, quick read. I really enjoyed this book. I didn't see the point of some of the characters- Gilles, Audrey, Sarah- but they provided some entertainment. However, with a long list of characters, I did get them all confused and couldn't remember who was who! I also didn't understand Mark Parnham's actions and why he acted as nicely he did. I kept thinking it was because he knew something we didn't- and it would come out later in the book- but that wasn't the case. It was an unanswered question for me throughout the book and confused me. However, this book kept me reading and I especially enjoyed the twist at the end.
This was a book I could not put down. A story about great tragedy and lives turned upside down. It was a heartbreaking account of alcoholism, and living with guilt. Patsy had everything going for her- she was beautiful, smart (just received her PHD) and had a great teaching position at a local college when she found herself waking up in jail (again) after one of her blackouts to learn that she had been in a car accident killing 2 people. She had no recollection of the event. She went to prison for 2 years and the description of her ordeal with that experience was horrifyingly real. That is really only the first part of the book though- the main focus of the book is on her life after being released; her search for a way to live with the guilt and her efforts to atone for her crime followed. The end of the book has a plot twist that I never saw coming and added a whole new level of tragic to the story. It just made it all feel very real to me- no trite, tidy ending.
I liked this book. Yes, I liked this book and became far more engrossed in the last 1/3 of it or so. The reason I start this review like that is that there are several things that normally would bother me about this book, yet I still enjoyed reading it.It was something about the amount of time we have to observe the characters. I say observe instead of ¿get to know¿ because I still don¿t feel that I know any of them particularly well. Even the main character, Patsy, remains a bit beyond my reach. But the reader is given 20+ years of her life and those around her, and the experience is a good one.Pasty MacLemoore drinks. Drinks a great deal. And one day she wakes up in jail after a blackout and is told that the night before, she¿d driven home and killed two people in her driveway. She can remember none of this, of course, and from those words on, her life changes completely.She pleads guilty and is sentenced to prison, and her former life as a professor is put on hold.¿She stood before the court and touched the dark tumult, the awful thumps and booms, bodies on the ground, a wheeling of stars; with such images came the inevitable, engulfing nausea of knowing it could never be undone.¿¿Yes, Patsy said, the word spanning a sea of uneasy feeling and linking death to blame like a stitch closing the lips of a wound so that healing could begin.¿But ¿ although the reader is told many times that Patsy feels the blame of what happens, that she constantly deals with the guilt of what cannot be undone ¿ I never really felt it. It seemed to me that she dealt far more with how to cope with prison life than with the idea that her actions resulted in the loss of two innocent lives. And she never really seems to wonder about the two victims. She thinks a great deal about their survivors (one of them a husband that is so forgiving that it borders on the ridiculous), but doesn¿t spend much time thinking about what the mother and daughter were like, what lives they might have led were they given the chance to do so.And her alcoholism is neatly dealt with in prison. With no access to booze, she has one or two passing thoughts of taking a drink, but she doesn¿t seem to struggle much with this debilitating condition. She becomes an addict of AA but we don¿t see much of the transition from one addiction to another.But again, I did like this book. Though I had problems with many of the details of the story, the general fabric of these people, this place, this time was interesting to me. I fell easily into their lives and wanted the story to continue.(Wait, one more critical note. The book purports to contain a bombshell turn of events. But since the back cover TELLS the reader what the bombshell is, and because there is so much foreshadowing of the bombshell, I found the actual event to be a huge letdown.)While I still feel that much of the emotion is told to the reader and not shown, there are moments of the book that reach beyond the page. When Patsy is released from prison after serving her time and takes a bath for the first time in years:¿She got out of the tub and grabbed a towel all too quickly; the air burst into prisms, and she had to sit on the toilet, bent over her knees until the whirling bars of color subsided. Traffic rumbled outside, a bass note to the city¿s hum, and above that, she heard a faint ringing, so high-pitched, steady, and beautiful it could only be silence.¿I will be very curious to see what others have to say about ¿blame¿. After reading it, and reading my review of it, my words seem to conflict with my thoughts, but as I shelve this volume in my library, I will know that I liked this book.