In this gripping tale, Huneven charts the parameters of guilt and how a young, wisecracking intellectual becomes a shadow of her former self. Patsy MacLemoore, a boozy history professor, is helping her boyfriend, Brice, take care of his niece, Joey, whose mother is undergoing cancer treatment. But when Patsy goes on a bender and emerges from a drunken blackout in jail, she learns she's accused of having run down a mother and daughter in her driveway. After her conviction, Patsy transforms from free spirit into a convict, and Huneven deftly underscores the bizarre trajectory Patsy's life has taken. In a prison AA group, Patsy seeks redemption and meaning; she also develops a relationship with the man whose wife and daughter she killed and helps put his son through school, stays the course after her release and maintains a friendship with Brice and Joey. Brilliant observations, excellent characters, spiffy dialogue and a clever plot keep readers hooked, and the final twist turns Patsy's new life on its ear. Huneven's exploration of misdeeds real and imagined is humane, insightful and beautiful. (Sept.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
In 1981, Patsy MacLemoore is a smart, functioning alcoholic. A professor at Hallen College in Altadena, CA, she is known for loud and lascivious behavior at faculty parties and for missing the occasional class after a night of drinking and taking pills. When Patsy, who has a suspended license, is arrested and jailed for hitting and killing a mother and daughter—both Jehovah's Witnesses—in her driveway, she doesn't remember the accident. After two years in prison, Patsy quits drinking, eventually returning to her old job but not her old ways. Patsy's sober life is carefully unfurled—new connections forged, old relationships changed, a constant background of remorse and shame—but the book's promotional copy somewhat spoils this talented author's (Jamesland) carefully nuanced, sharply focused narrative by trumpeting a plot twist that isn't even hinted at before page 220. VERDICT Recommended to readers who enjoy literary novels like Sue Miller's Lost in the Forest and Laura Moriarty's The Rest of Her Life that examine how a tragic accident irrevocably changes life's course. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 5/15/09.]—Laurie A. Cavanaugh, Brockton P.L., MA
Huneven (Jamesland, 2003, etc.) tracks a 20-year-old burden of guilt with supple technique. Alcoholism and integrity drive her novel, which is narrated with flashes of irony, appealing warmth and dry judgment. Patsy MacLemoore plays only a bit part in the opening scene, during which 12-year-old Joey, whose mother is dying in the hospital, spends a bizarre night in the care of her attractive, wastrel Uncle Brice and his girlfriend Patsy, an alcoholic history professor who gets drunk, gives Joey pills and beer and pierces her ears unevenly. The story proper begins a year later, in May 1981, and Patsy takes center-stage. During her latest blackout, she drives into and kills two Jehovah's Witnesses, mother and daughter. Prison follows, two harsh years from which Patsy emerges stripped to the emotional bone. She rebuilds her life assisted by Brice, his boyfriend Gilles (Patsy's not too surprised by that revelation) and the forgiveness of the husband and father of her victims. Seeking "a way to be good," she finds it caring for AIDS patients, starting with Gilles. She takes sanctuary in marriage to Cal, an older, richer man with a long history of helping the troubled. Patsy's resolution to be a better person means that she chooses not to act on her powerful attraction to a fellow academic. Twenty years after the killings, a stunning revelation forces her to recast her identity and her relationships. Grace, insight and seemingly effortless narration distract from the odd pacing and sometimes meandering progress of this empathetic tale.
“Michelle Huneven's novel Blame [is] one of the most thought-provoking books I've read in years.” Jennifer Weiner, CBS's Sunday Morning
“A novel that combines the compulsive pleasures of a page-turner and the deeper satisfaction of true, thoughtful literature.” Entertainment Weekly
“Unfolds like a thriller, creating a sense of urgency and mystery even about everyday matters. . . . Huneven's prose moves like a hummingbird, in small bursts that are improbably fast and graceful.” The New York Times Book Review
“Smart, deep, addictive . . . Huneven's language hums, her dialogue jumps. . . . There are so many eye-popping scenes I would need to take my shoes off to count them.” GQ
“Wonderful . . . How do you build lasting relationships when the world insists on crumbling around you? That's Huneven's theme here, and she does a lovely job with it.” The Washington Post
“An elegant, hair-raising novel . . . Huneven's prose is flawless.” The New Yorker
“The satisfactions Blame offers readers are elegant prose and, deeper than that aesthetic pleasure, the intelligence and compassion Huneven brings to her characters. She holds them all with the utmost tenderness.” Los Angeles Times
“Michelle Huneven's new novel, Blame, is a lovely, shimmering tour de force, full of an astonishing sense of the beauty of the world, the inestimable complexity of moral consequences, and the bright pleasures of Huneven's prose. Read it.” Roxana Robinson, author of Cost
“In Blame, a guilty protagonist strives for the good and achieves the beautiful--and, eventually, the truth. Huneven's supple, world-loving prose elevates small gestures into redemptive acts and everyday objects into restorative gifts, rewarding the reader on every page.” Janet Fitch, author of White Oleander and Paint It Black
“Huneven turns complicated moral issues into utterly riveting reading in this beautifully written story of remorse and redemption.” Joanne Wilkinson, Booklist (starred review)
“This book is a pleasure, on every level.” Sue Miler, Bookforum
“Michelle Huneven is a writer of extraordinary and thrilling talent, and Jamesland is a marvel.” Richard Russo on Jamesland
“Like that other West Coast chronicler of struggling Americans, Raymond Carver . . . [Huneven] is not interested in literary pretension or postmodern razzle-dazzle, but in achieving a measure of truth--and her generous, engaging novel does just that.” Valerie Sayers, The New York Times Book Review, on Round Rock