Sunday, January 26, 2014

May We Be Forgiven by A.M. Homes

Coming to the rescue gladdens a despairing man

Harold Silver, a Nixon scholar, must fill the parental vacuum left once favored brother George goes berserk and murders his wife (while she’s in bed with Harold). George has two fairly strange kids. Harold reclaims them from their boarding school exile and informally adopts another oddball child. Harold also meets two weird women who are sexually interested in him. As he helps out more and more, engaging with other people, he feels better and better. The final image is one of family happiness around the Thanksgiving table. 

I appreciated the ambition and the scope. This novel may have been unfashionably long, but it was never boring.  At times, perhaps, the different scenes felt pointless in the larger structure, but I was always entertained. The tone is irreverent, and, at its core, this novel is a commentary on American society.  Using present tense, Homes satirizes many aspects of modern life: Online dating, the prison system, dementia, the educational system, over the top party catering. Her strong suit is crazy dialogue, though with not a lot of lyricism in the descriptions. There are many comic cameos by real people – Don DeLillo, Deborah Treisman. And Tricia Nixon in a stroke of genius.

Homes removes one obstacle to the plot: Harold has tons of money which removes some of the conflict but allows for some splendid scenes set in Africa. I had a choice between this and another long well regarded book. I read a few pages of both – this one seemed more wicked, more energetic, so I dove right in.

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