Homes, A.M.”May We Be Forgiven: A Novel”, Viking Adult, 2012.
Harold Silver has taken of his younger brother, George, for almost his entire life. George is smarter, better looking, wealthier, etc but he has a bad temper and when he lost control once, something happened that changed both brothers’ lives forever. Harry, quite suddenly, faces the responsibility of taking care of George’s two teenage children and is thrown into a life that he really knows nothing about. Harry has to play parent and build a family that was created by choice and as he does, we are made aware of how history becomes destiny and either force us to change or repeat previous mistakes. This is a story about putting a family back together after it has been torn apart. It is an intense look at a catastrophe and a year in the life of an American family that has been broken. The book will seduce you with its prose and with its plot and you will be all the better for having read it.
After George is involved in a traffic accident that kills three members of his family, he is hospitalized in a psych ward and his wife begins an affair with his brother, Harry. With the accident being the catalyst, a family is totally transformed.
Accidents propel the action here until Harry begins a movement toward a substantive life. Harry who has been quite passive is torn from that existence and becomes a Job like figure and problems rain down on him. We see him as a man beset by catastrophes as he tries to do what is right—he adopts his brother’s children, he has casual sex with then moves to another level and he tries to correct what his brother does wrong. Before you realize it, Harry has sucked you into his life and the author’s wit and prose keep you there as we cheer for Harry as he maneuvers and meanders through a life that was not all his choosing. Yet this is a comic novel, albeit black comedy and we want even more when the book is done.
The themes are familiar– a passive narrator who lives a surreal life he doesn’t even realize he’s not living, things that happen that are beyond control and how we respond or not respond to them. The overall theme, it seems to me, is the resiliency of the human spirit and the ability to deal with problems as they surface. While at times the novel seems to be absurd, there is brilliant absurdity and Homes’s style matches the tragic-comedy of the plot. It is a tragedy that moves Harry to action and it is the comic nature of his character that allows him to deal with it. Put this on your list of “To Be Read”—you will not regret it.