In the “Best Book I’ve Read This Year” category I would put May We Be Forgiven by A.M. Homes. This is a brilliant, sprawling novel, one that will make you laugh and cry, shudder and smile.
A.M. Homes has populated her latest novel with articulate and colorful characters, one of whom is a university professor with an obsession for the life of Richard Nixon. In the early chapters of this book the reader is confronted with several disturbing incidents, ranging from adultery to murder, and later there is yet more sex and even an incident that would qualify as pedophilia, and yet by the time this novel has run its course the overall tone is quite buoyant and positive.
Towards the end of this novel, one character remarks about the guests at a large family gathering:
“It’s like a freak show, a random collection of people.”
And yes, on the surface, the assemblage of characters that Homes has thrown together in this rambling novel does seem bizarre and haphazard. But the patient reader will be rewarded as Homes ties it all together, working her literary magic to create a truly brilliant book that churns up the gamut of human emotions. When the story comes to a close you want to cheer for these brave people and the way they have lived their lives and how they have overcome so much heartbreak and sorrow, all while discovering the joys of life and caring for other people. I can’t heap enough praise on this book. I haven’t read a novel that’s moved me so much in a long, long time, nor one that’s made me laugh as hard.
I’ve been a fan of A.M. Homes for many years, enjoying novels such as Jack and Music For Torching, and the short story collection The Safety of Objects (although, another collection of her short stories, Things You Should Know, I thought was fairly awful). Homes is never shy to explore controversial subject matter or to present disturbing characters, but I find her novels to be very thought provoking and fascinating.
My favorite of her books, until May We Be Forgiven came along, was This Book Will Save Your Life, a magical feel-good novel, one that may not save your life but will at least make you feel much better about life. May We Be Forgiven is not as consistently charming or upbeat as This Book Will Save Your Life but it’s another novel that leaves the reader with hope for the human race.