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Wednesday November 26, 2014
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A.M. Homes

 

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suck us into history or fantasy, the hidden spots of contemporary culture, or the fascination of art. A.M. Homes shows us in her 2012 big book, May We Be Forgiven, that these books can be dark, funny, instructive, and deeply moving all at the same time.

May We Be Forgiven won the Women's Prize in Fiction for 2013, the award given for the best book written by a woman in the English language. It is the richest prize given for fiction, other than the Nobel itself. Lest you think that this means the book is slow and unrelievedly weighty, let me assure you that before page 15 we have multiple murders, infidelity, insanity, and, incredibly, several good laughs. Homes has written one of the most spectacular beginnings to a big novel that I have ever read; it is a definition of tour de force.

Her protagonist, Harold Silver, is about to lose his job as a scholar of Richard Nixon, and the world keeps interfering with him in other ways. He is drawn into the intrigues of suburban New York by the insanity of his financially successful brother, George. If readers of twentieth-century American fiction start hearing echoes here, let me reassure you that Homes includes cameos for both John Cheever and Don DeLillo; she knows what she's doing. At first Harold is more acted upon than acting, accepting responsibility for the people abandoned by the murderous and the irresponsible. We feel sorry for him and laugh at his weaknesses.

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