We continue our discussion of June’s Book of the Month, May We Be Forgiven, by looking at the critical reception of AM Homes’ latest novel.
By far the book’s highest accolade has been winning the 2013 Women’s Prize for Fiction, in which Miranda Richardson, Chair of Judges, said: “Our 2013 shortlist was exceptionally strong and our judges’ meeting was long and passionately argued, but in the end we agreed thatMay We Be Forgiven is a dazzling, original, viscerally funny black comedy – a subversion of the American dream. This is a book we want to read again and give to our friends.”
Other critics shared its praise. In The Guardian, Theo Tait shared our view when we first read it, asking “After the first exhilarating 50 pages, the reader wonders: where on earth can Homes go now?”
The answer? “Everywhere. The rest of the book is a digital-age picaresque, a series of bizarre, episodic adventures. People are hospitalised, repeatedly; sacked, kidnapped, and incarcerated in sinister experimental correctional facilities. There is child abuse, abuse of prescription drugs, internet sex, and a swingers’ party at a Laser Tag Emporium. There are subplots to do with a murdered woman, a Bar Mitzvah in a South African village, and the discovery that Richard Nixon wrote dark short stories. The overall direction of travel, though, is towards the light. The children, says Harry, push him into being “a better version of myself”, and an alternative family unit forms under his supervision. Dark satire gives way to spiritual uplift.”
In The Independent, Lisa Gee highlights how “May We Be Forgiven centres on a lost soul of a man, who finds his road to redemption more or less by tripping over it. But this is a darker, more ambitious thing. It’s also very funny.”
She goes on to say “this is a huge-hearted expansive book, simultaneously nightmare-black and extremely funny. While nudging her readers to chew on issues of responsibility, Homes allows her characters to experience truly absurd situations. The non-traditional psychiatric establishments George is sent to are outrageous, comedic but also unnervingly plausible. George and Harry’s mother, bedridden and demented, benefits from an Awakenings-style treatment.”
Philip Womack in The Telegraph describes it as “a novel about connections, broken, made and remade. They may exist physically, emotionally and, increasingly, electronically. In this ambitious, often enthralling work, the only certainty is that we cannot be human without being joined to someone.”
“…There is a sense that we are becoming desensitised, not just emotionally, but in all other aspects, through technology. Everybody in the book is seeking some kind of relationship, even if, like George, they are incapable of keeping it. A female teacher finds comfort in George’s 11-year-old daughter; two demented old people that Harold ends up housing nurse dolls as if they were children. And yet nobody really knows how to connect with others in a true manner. Harold muses: “The loss of the human touch scares me.”
In a week we’ll be asking for your thoughts! Was it a worthy winner? Do you agree with the critic’s assessment?
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Buy the book: Amazon– Waterstones – Book Depository