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on 12 September 2016
This Book Will Save Your Life is one of my favourite books of recent years. It was fresh, light hearted, different. It gave you a word full of hope and promise.

When I read the first chunk of May We Be Forgiven at the end of TBWSYL I couldn't wait to read the rest. What should have been, could have been an interesting take on rebuilding a broken life instead ended up being sentimental, borderline racist crap.

We have another divorced middle aged lonely New York Jewish man with a convenient never ending supply of cash. This one is an author and a teacher who can take time off willy nilly and makes everyone he comes into contact with happy.
Child abuse is swept under the table, someone pretty much gets away with murder, laser tag is played but this time it's sexy, we have funny foreign people and doughnuts get a brief mention.

Oh and there is Nixon, lots and lots of Nixon.

It's an easy enough read but at times it is a slog. It's too perfect, it relies too much on unlikely coincidences. Any conflicts are too easily resolved or are resolved in a ridiculous fashion.

TBWSYL made me want to change my life, it made me want to change the world. This just left me feeling empty, cheated almost.
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on 15 February 2014
This is another of those 'hmmm' books for me. I am still not sure what I thought of it. I didn't 'like' it. It was funny, and twisted and dark, and I loved the Nixon metaphors that ran through it which made it even more twisted and dark, but did make me wonder how many people unfamiliar with Nixon would get them - and you did need to know a bit about Nixon, not just the bare bones of Watergate. It's a novel that seemed to run away with itself in the first quarter, so wildly to the extent that I almost gave up on it, partly because I couldn't keep up and partly because my credibility was stretched, until I realised (as per quite a few other reviewers) that it was a false narrative - duh!

Basically, May We Be Forgiven is a satire of the American Dream. Harry (narrator) is a passive vehicle - apparently - and average American guy - apparently - who minds his own business and spends most of his time obsessing about RMN and the book he's writing on it. Then, following a series of bizarre events, Harry 'inherits' his nasty brother's life, loses his own indifferent wife and his job, and set about reinventing his brother's and various other families in true American Dream style. A straight reading of this is saccharine and sickening, but you can't take anything Harry says as the truth. Harry not only distorts everything, but he sees the past through a totally distorted lens and we suspect, though that's never actually clarified, that he had what borders on the abused kind of childhood. Maybe.

This is one of those books that does stay with you. You turn over scenes and replay them in your head and if you could be bothered, I reckon if you took the two parallel lines of Harry's life as he says he lived it and RMN's life as Harry would have liked him to live it, then they'd not be parallels but they'd converge - not that either of them would bear any resemblance to the truth. But the think about RMN, and the thing about Harry, is that both were/are arch deceivers, and arch deceivers are so good at it because they believe their own deceptions. Which is maybe what this book is about? Life isn't how we live it but how we perceive it and tell it to others? Maybe.

I'm glad I read this. I will definitely read more of AM Holmes (I've only read one other so far) but I'll wait until I'm in a pondering, wanting to be shaken up frame of mind, I think.
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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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Delectation. The dysfunctional (in this case, American) family, and a total blast.
The first thirty pages are just phenomenal, and I thought the ensuing tale was really terrific. I absolutely loved this book, in case you can’t tell.
It spoils nothing, but can best be summed up by a taste of some of the gems within :
” ‘Middle management,’ Aunt Lilian blurts, ‘that’s all he ever was. There was always someone above him who he hated, and someone below that he took it out on.’ ”
“He pauses. ‘Can I ask you, what is your relationship to God?’ ‘Limited,’ I say. ‘Limited with the exception of spontaneous prayer in times of acute distress.’ ”
“I don’t know what to do, and so I adopt what I call the ‘Thumper Pose’, one hand on the chin and brow furrowed. In Bambi, Thumper says ‘If you can’t say something nice, then don’t say anything at all.’ ”
“If it weren’t for the children, the dog, the cat, the kittens, the plants, I would come completely undone.” (Hear hear).
And towards the end of the book and still I promise not hampering anyone who has yet to discover it,
“Stay, I tell myself, as I take a breath. Stay here, in the moment. And I breathe again – deeply… I look down the table and see young and old talking, passing platters of turkey and stuffing, sweet and savory, embracing the season.”
Oh how I loved this book. Nicola at Literary Ramblings etc at WordPress.
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VINE VOICEon 24 September 2013
Harry Silver (I'm guessing about 38 years old) , George's 11 month elder brother, is a lecturer/professor and (President Richard) Nixon scholar. He is writing a book on Nixon, is married and totally faithful to his wife and they are childless. For no very good reason he makes one mistake and finds himself caught in the act, in flagrante delicto, with his sister-in-law, which leads (for reasons which we won't go into here so as not to spoil the story) to his situation suddenly and drastically changing. His wife throws him out and proceeds to divorce him, he has a stroke, he is fired, he becomes guardian of two kids (his nephew and niece - 11 and 12) , plus a dog and a cat. How quickly life can change!

All this happens in the very early part of the novel, so I'm not ruining any surprises - or very few. The novel is about how he deals with all of this (and more) and how it changes him as a person. Along the way many twists and turns unfold, sometimes beautifully, but eventually reaching extremes which this reader was unable to comfortably accept. The writing is never bad, but the story becomes too far-fetched and convoluted to seem plausible and seeks to include too many branches while leaving others half explored and massive questions unanswered. It's not bad, but it could have been a lot better with some heavier editing.
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on 8 May 2014
I really liked this, it is an odd book with an absence of chapters and an opening sequence that is peculiarly hooking and disturbing at the same time. After that it settles to a sometimes funny (black comedy largely), sometimes thought provoking look at dysfunctional families, internet dating and the horrors of (american) middle-class life, in amongst that though are some nuggets on whats is all about, what a family is and how to roll with upheaval & changes. There are bits that bothered me....too much detail about Richard Nixon (which might have more resonance if you American and know his back story not just Watergate) , the wealth of the characters (which makes anything possible and takes away any sense of jeopardy, the dodgy SA bit and a very cheesy ending. It feels like a film waiting to happen....
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on 17 August 2017
I must say I didn't finish the book. I just couldn't and gave up about half way through. I got bored of the style and not much was happening really or when it did, it just didn't make any sense. I like really getting into a book and looking forward to reading it but here, I almost forgot my Kindle existed! I downloaded a sample of the Kindle before purchasing it and thought the start was gripping and would get even better but I was wrong.
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on 14 October 2016
Really weird. I like weird books, but I’m not sure I get it yet. Also, a lot of the review comments printed on the back cover note how funny it is. I’m not convinced. There’s the odd one liner but given the subject matter I think that the humour is designed to jar, to feel awkward and to fall a little flat. Maybe that’s just what I took from it though. Anyway, it made me feel quite uncomfortable at points, but I really enjoyed it anyway. I’d read more by A M Holmes based on this, though and there are certain friends (although not just anyone) who I’d recommend this to.
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on 26 March 2014
A minor act begets a major disaster: Harry's sister-in-law kisses him at Thanksgiving, and pretty soon, or rather after an affair, a murder, and an incarceration, Harry finds himself running his brother's family, including being responsible for his two teenage kids. Relentlessly mad and told in a tone always at the border between sarcasm and sincerity, May We Be Forgiven is a highly original and readable book. Harry finds more fulfilment after abandoning his conventional lifestyle, regardless of the original sin that caused the change. Get out of the groove, such seems to be the book's lesson. Homes's novel is both convincing and entertaining, even if the ending falls somewhat short of its breakneck first 400 pages.
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on 12 March 2017
I read this book for book club, pushing me out of my comfort zone. I did not enjoy it, or understand where it was going for 80% of the book, but I was determined to finish it and I am glad I did. It was a random collection of weird events that somehow ends up making a story that was compelling and pulled together at the very end. Not sue I would read anything else by Homes, but never say never.
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