We are often told that when you fall in love it is beyond reason. It is not rational, and all your previously-held and long-voiced thoughts go out of the window. So it was for me and “May we be Forgiven.”
On the face of it, there were so many things about this novel I shouldn’t like:
- It has a male protagonist, who, at least at the start, is hard to warm to;
- It has a hugely implausible plot line, from beginning to end. The first few chapters seem unlikely, and that is before the growth of the adopted family, the introduction of the CIA and various Nixon-based turns;
- It isn’t at all quotable – I didn’t underline one quote in the entire thing, almost unknown for me; and
- The narrative is so fast paced that it almost feels rushed. It is constantly turning and evolving. You can’t really talk about twists, because for a twist to have impact, you have to be lulled into a false sense of security.
But despite all of this, I bloody loved it. I loved it in that way where you can’t put it down, you dream about it, and you actually feel emotionally bereft when it is over. And there is good reason for that too:
- Although it may not seem so at the start, this is an utterly hopeful book, full of redemption;
- Equally, this novel is warm and kind, despite the flaws of many of the key characters. Somehow, in spite of the pace of the narrative, the characters feel well-developed and real;
- The narrative always keeps you with it. It has a good slow-fast-slow-fast rhythm, so just when everything gets too crazy it gives you time to pause, reappraise, take a deep breath and move on; and
- It is modern. In all that in some ways it is a commentary on the American Dream, with classic references to Nixon and Willy Loman, it’s approach, style and other key themes are very Twenty-First Century.
The style of the book means I can’t tell you more without ruining something fundamental to it. But oh God, go and read it – you won’t be disappointed.