Harold Silver has spent a lifetime watching his younger brother, George, a taller, smarter, and more successful high-flying TV executive, acquire a covetable wife, two kids, and a beautiful home in the suburbs of New York City. But Harry, a historian and Nixon scholar, also knows George has a murderous temper, and when George loses control the result is an act of violence so shocking that both brothers are hurled into entirely new lives in which they both must seek absolution.
Harry finds himself suddenly playing parent to his brother’s two adolescent children, tumbling down the rabbit hole of Internet sex, dealing with aging parents who move through time like travelers on a fantastic voyage. As Harry builds a twenty-first-century family created by choice rather than biology, we become all the more aware of the ways in which our history, both personal and political, can become our destiny and either compel us to repeat our errors or be the catalyst for change.
May We Be Forgiven is an unnerving, funny tale of unexpected intimacies and of how one deeply fractured family might begin to put itself back together.
About A. M. Homes
A. M. Homes is the author of the memoir The Mistress’s Daughter and the novels This Book Will Save Your Life, Music for Torching, The End of Alice, In a Country of Mothers, and Jack, as well as the story collections The Safety of Objects and Things You Should Know. She lives in New York City.
A relentless series of shocks rattles hapless narrator Harry Silver. First, his brutal younger brother, odious TV executive George, kills two people in a car crash and is committed to the local hospital’s psych ward. Three nights later, George returns to find Harry in bed with George’s wife, Jane, and smashes her over the head with a lamp. George is whisked off to a mental institution, brain-damaged Jane dies in the hospital, and Harry winds up as reluctant guardian of 12-year-old Nate and 11-year-old Ashley. His wife launches divorce proceedings, he loses his job, and he has a stroke. Even Richard Nixon, longtime subject of Harold’s research, didn’t have many months worse than this. Living in his brother’s Westchester mansion and having sex with women he meets via the Internet, Harry succumbs to despair. He’s adrift in a world “so new, so random and disassociated that it puts us all in danger. We talk online, we ‘friend’ each other….We mistake almost anything for a relationship.” Yet, Harry does build an oddball community with his niece and nephew, the son of the couple George killed, the elderly parents of one of his sex partners, the owners of his favorite Westchester Chinese restaurant and the family that runs a deli across the street from the Manhattan law firm where he’s reading Nixon’s previously unknown fiction—made available to Harry by Julie Nixon Eisenhower, the cousin-in-law of another sex partner. They all come together (except Julie) in the novel’s closing pages, which contrast their peaceful, happy Thanksgiving with the tense holiday a year earlier that foreshadowed Harry’s woes. – Kirkus Reviews
‘May We Be Forgiven’ Blames The Online World
NPR Book Review – September 27, 2012 (Excerpt)
“I am guilty,” admits Harold Silver, the protagonist of A.M. Homes’ new novel, May We Be Forgiven. “I am guilty of even more than I realized I could be guilty of.”
In 2012, it’s an extraordinary statement. Two generations have passed since I’m OK, You’re OK went from pop-psychology book title to a national feel-good catchphrase, and self-help books have convinced Americans that high self-esteem is a more noble trait than altruism and moral good. In a world where motivational bromides have become quasi-religious precepts, noticing that we’re all pretty far from OK is almost heretical.
That might be the world we live in, but A.M. Homes doesn’t have to be happy about it. May We Be Forgiven is both a narrative masterwork and an impassioned cry of conscience against the selfishness and anomie of the digital generation. It’s not just one of the best novels of the past few years, it’s also the most deeply, painfully American. [Read the full article...]
Review: A.M. Homes’ ‘May We Be Forgiven’ hits sour, sweet notes
The Chicago Tribune Book Review – September 30, 2012 (Excerpt)
“May We Be Forgiven” begins at a Thanksgiving celebration in an affluent New York City commuter community. It’s Cheever country with a black comedy upgrade.
All this happens within the first 15 pages: Successful television executive George gets into a car accident, killing two parents and leaving their son an orphan. While George is away under observation, his brother Harry consoles Jane, his sister-in-law; before you know it, they’re sleeping together. When George returns home to find the two of them in bed together, he bashes Jane’s head in with a bedside lamp.
With Jane comatose in the hospital and George locked up, Harry moves into their house to hold things together. His niece and nephew, 11-year-old Ashley and 12-year-old Nate, come home from their boarding schools to sit with their doomed mother. [Read the full article...]
‘May We Be Forgiven’: A Story Of Second Chances
NPR Book Review – October 11, 2012 (Excerpt)
A.M. Homes is a writer I’ll pretty much follow anywhere because she’s indeed so smart, it’s scary; yet she’s not without heart. It’s been a while since her last book, the 2007 memoir The Mistress’s Daughter, which is certainly the sharpest and most emotionally complex account of growing up adopted that I’ve ever read. Her latest book is a novel,May We Be Forgiven, and it returns her to blighted fictional terrain she’s wandered through before: that is, the nightmare-scape of contemporary suburbia as seen through the eyes of a middle-aged man who’s been stripped — Lear-like — of family, job and belief.
Ordinarily, a plot synopsis like that would make me roll my eyes, but I don’t — because this is A.M. Homes and I know I’ve got to watch her every move. Homes’ suburbia is a place where yawning sinkholes will suddenly open up in front lawns, swallowing cliched plotlines and opening portals to other dimensions. After the first page or so of a Homes story, your next stop is always the Twilight Zone.
Consider the way this novel blasts off. Chapter 1 introduces us to our hero, 48-year-old Harry Silver, who’s writhing through yet another Thanksgiving dinner at the crowded table of his rich and powerful younger brother, George. [Read the full article...]
Man of the House - ‘May We Be Forgiven,’ by A. M. Homes
The New York Times Book Review – November 2, 2012 (Excerpt)
For a while there, in the middle of the last century, New York’s northern suburbs were something like the literary capital of the country. The novels of Richard Yates and the stories of John Cheever reimagined Westchester County as a mythic landscape to rival Yoknapatawpha, and the rider of the Metro-North as a prism for American yearning and unease. Then the ’60s came along and scrambled the cultural map. But the Westchester mystique persists, in “Mad Men” and men’s wear — and in much of A. M. Homes’s best fiction.
Homes’s 1999 novel “Music for Torching” used weekday commutes and weekend barbecues as foils for all manner of private compulsion. It was a sequel of sorts to her breakout collection, “The Safety of Objects,” wherein Cheever’s “Sorrows of Gin” became the sorrows of the crack pipe. If, more recently, Homes has drifted toward the West Coast, her new novel, “May We Be Forgiven,” returns to Cheeverville with a vengeance. The mundane ripens into elegy; late afternoon is “the slow part of the day, when everything seems to hang unfinished in midair, until cocktails can be poured.” At one point we even glimpse “the ghost of John Cheever going out for a ride.” But another Westchester luminary is equally on Homes’s mind. He pops up early, outside a Starbucks — a man who “looks familiar, a cross between a guy who might change your flat and Clint Eastwood.” It is, the narrator realizes, Don DeLillo. [Read the full article...]
We are the only country that makes guns, including military-style assault weapons, available to anyone who wants to buy them. This is not freedom. It is a tyranny of death and destruction — a tyranny of which the National Rifle Association is proud. The Washington Post
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