May We Be Forgiven by A. M. Homes

Shortlisted for this year’s Women’s Prize for Fiction, ‘May We Be Forgiven’ by A. M. Homes tells the story of a Richard Nixon scholar, Harold Silver, and his dysfunctional family life.  His brother, George, kills two people in a car accident and then murders his wife after he discovers she is having an affair with Harry and ends up back in a mental hospital.  Harry suddenly finds himself in charge of his niece and nephew as well as dealing with various other problems in his life including his divorce and losing his job.

‘May We Be Forgiven’ is a bleak and seriously bizarre satire about modern American life.  Homes presents a diverse and intriguing cast of complex characters.  She also tells her story with great imagination and real black humour.  However, I thought ‘May We Be Forgiven’ was a pretty flawed piece of work mostly because it is far too long.  This 480 page novel could easily have been cut down to about 300 pages or so.  The story started off very well for about 100 pages or so and the pace is pretty fast but I thought it all got too messy in the middle section and never really recovered after that.  Some of the bizarre sub-plots should have been scrapped completely which would have made the story a bit more focused and a bit less meandering.  In particular, the Nixon digressions didn’t strike me as being really necessary to the story.  I also didn’t warm to any of the characters and I think this was because the dysfunctional nature of Harry’s family life was stretched beyond real believability.   To me, the plot(s) just became farcical and absurd rather than funny and insightful as all good satire should be.  

Overall, the initial story and characters were intriguing but failed to be rescued by some much-needed editing and plausibility.  ‘May We Be Forgiven’ is an ambitious piece of work but ultimately, this book wasn’t for me.

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9 Comments

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9 responses to “May We Be Forgiven by A. M. Homes

  1. I’ve struggled A M Holmes in the past… sounds as if I should probably pass on this one.

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  2. This sounds interesting but a bit too intense for me taste. Thanks for reviewing it though 🙂

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  3. ANN

    Hi! I nominated you for the Shine On Award. Should you choose to accept, please follow the instructions posted on my home page. Love your blog! ♥

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  4. Some of the issues you mention, I agree with. But in all, I enjoyed this book a lot. I love A. M. Homes books (in general) and this one reminded me of my favorite: This Book Will Save Your Life. It wasn’t quite as good as that, but close. I agree about the Nixon stuff, I didn’t care for that at all. And the book was a bit long.

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  5. I love your blog! Your uniqueness, eclectic voice and honesty keep me coming back day after day. So I have nominated you… http://allnightknitter.wordpress.com/2013/05/13/an-award-seriously/
    Keep going! Thank you!

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  6. I have hesitated over this book SO many times in the book shop. I’m intrigued, but I do fear the messiness and the weirdness of it!

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  7. Pingback: The Women’s Prize for Fiction Shortlist Readings | A Little Blog of Books and Other Stuff

  8. Pingback: A. M. Homes wins the Women’s Prize for Fiction | A Little Blog of Books and Other Stuff

  9. Pingback: Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple | A Little Blog of Books and Other Stuff

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