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95 of 105 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dysfunctional families from 21st century gothic Homes.
An outstanding year for new literary fiction culminates for me in a book of quite astonishing bravery, audacity and hilariously grim satire. Can this really be the state of the middle-class nuclear family in the US today? A. M. Homes seems to be saying that it is. This book is a disturbing read; it is definitely not for the faint-hearted. But it is definitely for anyone...
Published 24 months ago by Sue Kichenside

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Bizarre
Harry is an academic whose whole career is based on Richard Nixon. All his life, he has been overshadowed and bullied mercilessly by his younger brother, George. The book begins with explosive events and then we follow Harry trying to make sense of his life. In the post-modern world he inhabits, things happen without any decision-making from him and small actions have...
Published 18 months ago by GeordieReader


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95 of 105 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dysfunctional families from 21st century gothic Homes., 26 Dec 2012
By 
Sue Kichenside - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: May We be Forgiven (Hardcover)
An outstanding year for new literary fiction culminates for me in a book of quite astonishing bravery, audacity and hilariously grim satire. Can this really be the state of the middle-class nuclear family in the US today? A. M. Homes seems to be saying that it is. This book is a disturbing read; it is definitely not for the faint-hearted. But it is definitely for anyone who appreciates razor-sharp writing.

Briefly, it is the story of two brothers: Harold, the narrator, and George, just eleven months younger. George is a thoroughly nasty piece of work and now he has lost his mind. A trail of devastating events leaves mild-mannered, college lecturer Harold to pick up the pieces. Will he be able to cope? Will he ever finish his book on Richard Milhous Nixon? And why, you may ask, is he writing a book about a discredited dead ex-President whom none of his students remember? Factor in a couple of disturbed children (excellent characters, these), internet dating with some fairly grubby sex and a legal system that seems unacquainted with the term `justice', and you have an unflinching indictment of middle-class America in the early years of the 21st century. Read it and weep.

But you will also laugh because it is very funny. Even funnier, perhaps, for Jewish readers. Towards the end of the book there is a noticeable mellowing and when the family travels to a tiny village in South Africa to celebrate Harold's nephew Nate's Bar Mitzvah, Homes reveals that she can do tenderness and optimism too.

What makes A. M. Homes such an interesting writer is that she does not fit neatly into any particular pigeon-hole and she knows how to nail her targets with needle-sharp precision. Devastating.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Bizarre, 21 Jun 2013
Harry is an academic whose whole career is based on Richard Nixon. All his life, he has been overshadowed and bullied mercilessly by his younger brother, George. The book begins with explosive events and then we follow Harry trying to make sense of his life. In the post-modern world he inhabits, things happen without any decision-making from him and small actions have tremendous consequences. At one point, he glimpses Don de Lillo in a mall so we recognise the territory we are in.

Anyone who has read de Lillo's 'White Noise' will recognise a lot of the elements in this book: the academic obsessed with one person, the vague concern for various children and, of course, the way bizarre happenings have no lasting effect on people's lives. However, this isn't nearly as good. For me it was too long, too episodic and just too strange.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Rambling book, 27 Aug 2013
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I was disappointed in this. I had heard and read good things about the book but I found it never ending. The story doesn't take you anywhere and just seems to move from one unbelievable scenario to the next. I didn't actually like any of the characters either so could not really empathise with them.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Proceed with caution, 7 July 2013
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I decided to check out the writer upon her winning a fiction prize out of a strong shortlist. I read the Kindle sample and was compelled to purchase the title almost immediately, based on the magnificient and highly original start. Up to about the middle I enjoyed the black humour, the visceral punch (normally I would find it distressing, but I accepted the plot precisely because of the black humour) the power of observation of American life, the vivid characterisation of the protagonists, the 'Jewish humour'.

Then something happens and the novel becomes a feel-good bore. Not that some scenes are not superbly drawn, but A M Homes changes tack and direction and never really comes back. Up till the last moment I waited for the dark undertones to return, perhaps to warn the reader that things are never so 'good', but nothing happens except everything melts into redemption and reconciliation in suburbia, as per the title. To me, this is inconsistent and she has written two books here, the second of which I do not care for as much as the first.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Gave up with 100 pages to go, 13 Feb 2014
This review is from: May We Be Forgiven (Paperback)
I quite enjoyed Homes last novel; this book will save your life and I found the first 50 pages of this novel equally as interesting. From then on, well I'm still working out how to go about claiming back all those wasted hours I spent ploughing through the rest. There's a plot in there somewhere but boy, does it go on and on and on. Does Home contract state that her first draft is the only draft that will be published because this book could do with losing 200 pages of rambling nothingness. It lacks structure, plot and any strong characterisation. How it won awards I do not know.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Gave in to the hype, wish I'd waited a year, 8 Aug 2013
This review is from: May We Be Forgiven (Paperback)
Harry is the older brother of the bullying, violent, egotistical TV executive George and the book opens as he and his Asian wife (the first of the sickening borderline racist stereotypes) are visiting his house for Thanksgiving. And from there on in it all goes wrong. In the first 50 pages we're presented with an amazing series of events culminating in tragedy that affects everyone around them. No matter how hard Harry tries to make amends for his 'bad deed' he's constantly either screwing it up, or just adding to his woes. The problem is, Harry is such a child that in the beginning, his inability to grow up hampers everything, resulting in a spiral towards internet hook-ups for sex, picking up a very strange girl and taking her home...for sex (for such a loser, Harry does get around a bit) and then there's the self-medicating anything and everything he can get his hands on, causing a major health alert in the first half of the book.

But eventually, the responsibility he is forced to take on in the form of his niece and nephew, give Harry a massive wake-up call and he starts to face up to what he's done and his journey to redemption begins.
It's a long journey too, during which his work as a Nixon scholar and author takes him closer to the disgraced President than he thought he would get. His re-evaluation of Nixon causes Harry to also look at his own life, work and what he actually needs in this World as opposed to what the American Dream is telling him he needs. Sometimes the Nixon analogies get in the way and Homes lays the satire on a bit thick. It's also annoying as that sub-plot means another showing for the clipped Asian accents-I'm all for realism, but when it's used to voice a character who was born in the US, achieved a high standard of education and is hired to work with the printed word, it's lazy and leaves a nasty taste in the mouth as you read it.
When it comes to the supporting characters, several are definitely surplus to requirements, as are a few of the bizarre scenarios that Harry finds himself involved in (and readers will know exactly what I mean when I say 'The Woodsman'...why Homes...why?) and I felt this dragged the narrative about Harry's journey down. Also, for a novel so grounded in the harsh realities of life (no matter how daft, they do happen) the two instances of 'magic' jar and are out of place; whilst one is an understandable metaphorical narrative device, the other is forced.

As a commentary on all that's wrong with the Western world, it works well: can't solve your problems-take medication, the key to happiness is a massive tv, elderly and those with mental health problems either locked away and forgotten about or treated like lab rats, the threat of bad publicity worse than the welfare of an 11 yr old girl and Homes weaves these opinions into the story well.

Other reviewers have commented on the novel's almost 'Disneyesque' ending and while I can see their point, I did kind of like it: hasn't everyone got an Aunt Lillian, totally devoid of tact, opening her mouth and saying just the wrong thing at the wrong moment?

Without giving too much away, Harry's redemption is hard-earned, but well-deserved, if only it was better edited and with less of the 'Mickey Rooney School of Asian Depiction'.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars So much promise leading to nothing., 28 Aug 2013
By 
G. Howe (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: May We Be Forgiven (Paperback)
This starts off incredibly well, at a racing pace and full of dark humour and poignant moments. Then it very very slowly gets more and more dull and laboured until I gave up two thirds of the way through. Such a pity, it needed a script editor armed with a massive axe to cut it by at least a third.
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27 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Friggin' fantastic, 31 Dec 2012
By 
Penelope Simpson "penny simpson" (dorset, england) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: May We be Forgiven (Hardcover)
One of the strangest books I've ever read but gripping - my god, the opening chapter had me leaping out of my chair.

The story is there as a reassuring backdrop to be revealed in bush-wacking slugs,but totally unimportant. What gets you is the writing - the acute observance of characters who are anything but normal but who do such normal things that we are left wondering about our own capacity for weird. Fab, fab, tight writing, some laugh out loud stuff, slow reveals that have you reading through the night.

Wonderful. I LOVED it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars May We Be Forgiven, 5 Sep 2013
By 
S Riaz "S Riaz" (England) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 10 REVIEWER)   
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Harry and George Silver are brothers. George is brash, arrogant, successful; Harry the quieter and more conventional. This novel takes us throughout a tumultuous year, which begins and ends with a Thanksgiving dinner. At the first, Harry is glad for his quiet life with success businesswoman Claire; as he eyes his brother's children Nathaniel (Nate) and Ashley, glued to their electonic devices, with a cynical eye, while George loudly holds court. Then, George's wife, Jane, brushes against him in the kitchen and his attraction for her ultimately leads to tragedy. This book has an amazingly hard hitting beginning and, apparently, it started life as a short story, which grew into a novel. We have barely begun when there is an accident, an affair, a murder and a whole series of tragic events, which end with Harry responsible for his brother's children. Childless himself, how does an academic - a Nixon scholar, who has spent years writing 'the' book on his hero - relate to two children he barely knows?

Bizarrely, Harry finds himself living in his brother's house; wearing his clothes, walking his (unwilling) dog and taking care of his roses. Along the way, we read of some of the more absurd sides of modern life - of internet relationships, unsettling visits to George at a mental facility, how his mother is creating a new life for herself in a cheeringly progressive facility for the elderly. Of course, the main story revolves around his attempts to make this new life work, how he collapses in stress and illness and regroups, learns how to parent without being a parent and the magic children bring to your life. It is mainly a novel about family. Of how the nuclear family has changed and expanded to mean so much more - as Harry somehow manages to make his next Thanksgiving filled with the people he has grown to care about during an overwhelming year. Clever, sharp, emotional and very funny - a great novel and a worthy winner of the Orange prize.
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2.0 out of 5 stars ...just too silly for words, 20 April 2014
By 
sally tarbox (aylesbury bucks uk) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: May We Be Forgiven (Paperback)
The first few pages were absolutely riveting: unpleasant TV executive George causes a fatal car accident and ends up in a psychiatric institute. While he's away, his brother Harry ends up in bed with his wife; George catches them and murders the wife.

But then it just went on for 500 pages in an incredibly silly and far-fetched plot.
Harry slowly evolves from a rather uninspiring academic, whose life revolves around his work on President Nixon and meeting women for no-strings sex ('there has always lived within me a rusty sense of disgust - a dull, brackish water that I suspect is my soul') into this uber-loving human. For not only does Harry take on George's two children (who he discovers to be much nicer than he first thought), but also adopts the boy orphaned in George's car accident. And takes on the old and feeble parents of a woman he's been having sex with when she goes AWOL. And comes to the realization that 'it seems pointless to go on for the sake of going on, if there isn't some larger idea, some sense of enhancing the lives of others.'

It's fast, snappy, puts me in mind of an all-action American movie full of smart responses. A M Homes is an extremely accomplished writer but this was one I almost gave up on.
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May We Be Forgiven
May We Be Forgiven by A. M. Homes (Paperback - 4 April 2013)
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