My rating: 4 of 5 stars
i have a thing for books with clueless narrators–well-intentioned, basically nice people who stumble through life sort of just not catching on. my favorite in this tiny sub-genre of literature is doubtless An Evening of Long Goodbyes–i’ve read that one like six times and it still cracks me up. another fave would be Night of the Avenging Blowfish, which i have also read more often than is probably good for me. why aren’t there more books like this for the baffled among us? ’cause i suspect that’s really what most of us are.
this book introduces us to a man who, in the midst of an affair with his brother’s wife, witnesses her death and then ends up inheriting the traumatized kids, along with the house, all his brother’s endless closetful of suits, the dog and possibly a cat. he hasn’t the tiniest clue how take care of all these various entities, with the exception of the house, and he finds great solace in roaming the aisles of the local hardware store.
as well as internet dating of a most weird kind, and his Nixon studies, which he is transforming into a book.
May We Be Forgiven rambles quite a bit around a number of ideas: what it is to care for others, what it is to genuinely care for the self (a harder trick to pull off than can be imagined, sometimes), how these both collide with and intersect with the American Dream, the strange territory that is loving another. the book gets away with it, too, along with dollops of Nixonian history and a rather appalling number of gross bodily functions.
a lot of book covers and reviewers natter about “redemption”, and i suppose this could be a book about said. but really i think it’s bigger than that… it very much has the feel of life lived, with all its randomness and inexplicable encounters, in a kind of whiteout: none of us really has a clue where we are, because we can’t know where we shall be next, and even the past is malleable, open to interpretation.
may we be forgiven, indeed, for being purblind travellers on an unmapped road.
my only quibble with this book is that, along with the kids and the house and the suits, our protag inherits buttloads of money, and people keep throwing money at him throughout the book. nice job, if you can get it… but in at least one crucial episode in the book, money is the solution. and in every episode of the book, money smooths most of the paths. it’s a huge disconnect with how i live, and i think 99% of My Fellow Americans live. we have to work a little harder for our forgiveness, ’cause we can’t afford to buy it.
but that’s a quibble, really. i’m shelving this one next to An Evening of Long Goodbyes and Night of the Avenging Blowfish. i imagine in a couple years, i will have re-read it at least a few times.