May We Be Forgiven by A M Homes

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May We Be Forgiven by A M Homes

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Robin Leggett
Reviewed by Robin Leggett
Summary: A biting and very funny satire of American family life that flies off in unexpected directions. If you can 'forgive' the artistic licence with reality, then this is highly entertaining and unusual.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 480 Date: April 2013
Publisher: Granta
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1847083234

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May We Be Forgiven is not an easy book to summarise. The book is narrated by Harold, a fairly pedestrian academic teacher and aspiring writer of history and particularly the Nixon era. We don't have to wait long for the catalyst that changes his life fundamentally over the course of a year. His high flying, younger brother, George, is involved in a car accident shortly after Thanksgiving and an adulterous encounter will change the lives of Harold and George forever. AM Homes offers a biting satire of the American Dream, taking swipes at materialism, families that are more nuclear fallout than nuclear, Internet sex sites and the dependence on drugs and psychiatrists to keep people on the straight and narrow.

If you find yourself often annoyed by novels where you think 'that could never happen', this might be a book for you to avoid. You'd miss out on some excellent writing and some wonderful dry and dark humour, but the fact is that at times Homes does present some fairly unlikely scenarios. Like all good satire, she pushes situations to the extreme and on several occasions goes slightly beyond that point. Harold's sex life in particular seems rather far fetched, with even young girls positively throwing themselves at this rather bland teacher in the aisles of the local supermarket, while George's children, and particularly the younger child, Ashley, seem unrealistically erudite and mature for their age. If you can put these aside or even revel in them though, the result is highly entertaining and on several occasions laugh out loud funny.

The result is that if you take the book at face value, it's highly enjoyable and has great pathos, but if you start to think about it too much, it does seem to have a few flaws. The links with the Nixon thread are particularly curious. Indeed much of the message of the book seems to be not to get stuck in the past and that Nixon, like all of us, had weaknesses but was perhaps somewhat misunderstood. In fact at the heart of the book is a somewhat saccharin notion that only the children speak much sense and it's the adults who really make a mess of things.

It's hard for the reader not to be taken in by Harold's situation and goodness though and the children, while perhaps a little unrealistic, are wonderful characters. It's superbly entertaining and just when you think things cannot get much worse or complicated for Harold, guess what? They do. Providing you can surrender yourself to the Homes world and suspend disbelief, this is highly entertaining and often more than a little wise in it's satire of modern America.

It might not be realistic, but it is thoughtful and beautifully observed. And for all the dysfunctional situation, there is a part of me that would love to be at the second Thanksgiving meal that ends the year and the book.

Our grateful thanks to the kind people at Granta for sending us this book which is long listed for the 2013 Women's Prize for Fiction.

If you enjoyed the 'surely it cannot get any worse' aspect of this book then Care of Wooden Floors by Will Wiles will be right up your street. For more very funny dysfunctional American family fiction then Maine by Courtney Sullivan is also excellent. You might also enjoy The Minor Outsider by Ted McDermott.

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Buy May We Be Forgiven by A M Homes at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy May We Be Forgiven by A M Homes at


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