A Thousand Pardons
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A Thousand Pardons

3.25 of 5 stars 3.25  ·  rating details  ·  2,442 ratings  ·  487 reviews
For readers of Jonathan Franzen and Richard Russo, Jonathan Dee’s novels are masterful works of literary fiction. In this sharply observed tale of self-invention and public scandal, Dee raises a trenchant question: what do we really want when we ask for forgiveness?

Once a privileged and loving couple, the Armsteads have now reached a breaking point. Ben, a partner in a p...more
ebook, 240 pages
Published March 12th 2013 by Random House (first published January 1st 2013)
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karen
where is jonathan dee when they hand out all the literary awards??

because, jesus christ, being a finalist for the pulitzer, while nice, is much less than this man deserves.

and, yes, he has given us another novel about the problems of wealthy white americans. so all of you people who are bored with the affluenza and can't get into a story unless it is about the struggles of the underclass, take a hike. but you're missing out.

because jonathan dee is the real deal. his prose is so natural, so clean...more
Sarah
Uhhhhh..This book, I think is asking to be pardoned. I don't know. I might have missed the point. It flowed well for the first quarter of it. I felt like I was taken for a ride on the unhappy-marriage-express but then I got tossed off and felt like I kept missing the bus.


The story is about the fall-out of a marriage; about their behavior afterwards and then how their adopted daughter, Sara thinks of life and her parents etc. but I didn't really get a sense of an actual story. We see what happe...more
Alecia
I was anticipating reading this book but was disappointed. I so enjoyed The Privileges. But A Thousand Pardons barely eked out 2 stars, and only because I appreciated Jonathan Dee's last effort so much.

Like some other readers of this book, whose reviews I have looked over, I had a hard time believing that Helen, a divorced middle aged woman who hadn't held a job in many years, would suddenly soar to success in the Public Relations field in the manner Dee describes. And although the description o...more
Chad Sayban
The life of the Armstead family is a mess. Ben’s partnership – in fact is freedom – is in question thanks to his reckless lifestyle. Suddenly forced to fend for herself and her daughter Sara, Helen finds work in a struggling public relations firm in Manhattan. Helen quickly discovers she has a gift for spinning crises into opportunities. But with the biggest client of her career looming over her, will the weight of the past and the distance of her daughter undercut Helen’s second life?

The premis...more
Patrice Hoffman
*Won through a Goodreads Giveaway*

FYI to who ever reads this review NEVER HAVE A MIDLIFE CRISIS! The story centers around a family who has been thrown into the most bizarre circumstances all because Ben Armstead had some sort of breakdown. The heroine turns out to be his wife Helen, who kind of has a coming of age at the ripe old age of 40-something. She is the caracter I most cared about yet loathed at the same time. I wanted her to grow a back-bone and take hold instead of being railroaded int...more
thewanderingjew
So many books today are being written about failed characters. They do stupid things, get caught, either get forgiven or ostracized , or when the book ends, the reader is left to decide the ultimate outcome. What is the message of these books? Often the main character does heinous things and gets away with it (Defending Jacob, The Dinner), while another character gets blamed for something he didn’t do or for something that seems justified, or for something trivial and is more severely punished t...more
Melissa
This book is all flash & no payoff. Within 7 pages I read this passage, “Which could only be followed by a momentous silence; but since silence was anathema to Dr. Becket, on the grounds that silence might belong to anyone but vapid professional jargon was something that could bear her own distinctive stamp . . “ & I laughed out loud & thought, Oh boy here we go! but all the pretty words can’t detract from the terrible story & the maddening awfulness of the ending.
Mary Ronan Drew
About 30 years ago someone removed bottles of Tylenol capsules from the shelves of a Chicago drugstore, added potassium cyanide to them, and returned them to the shelves. Seven people died. Johnson & Johnson, the parent company, cooperated with the police, FBI, FDA, and media, immediately withdrawing all Tylenol from the shelves, warning people not to take their product, and eventually offering to replace capsules with tablets. Product packaging changed overnight to the belligerent packaging...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I received a copy of this from NetGalley. I had not previously read anything by Jonathan Dee, so I wonder if I'm lacking any important context of the author's work.

I see he is being promoted as similar to Jonathan Franzen, which isn't all that helpful since with Franzen, I have loved one book and hated the other. I see what they're getting at, with the types of characters, but in a loose sense one could make similar comparisons to anyone writing about normal Americans living normal lives with co...more
Chaitra
This book was so not worth the trouble. I was really excited to read Dee's new book, as I loved The Privileges even though it has nasty characters. Any author who can do that is a good author in my book. A Thousand Pardons also contains nasty characters, but unlike The Privileges is all expositional dialogue, silly doings and zero internalizing of anything. There's also very less pardon involved.

Here's the barely there construct. There's a man and a woman, Ben and Helen, who have an adopted girl...more
Lobstergirl
Mar 26, 2014 Lobstergirl rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Kerri Strug
Shelves: fiction

Dee is a very good writer. His prose is polished and effortless. His milieu (at least the two novels I've read thus far) is the educated upper middle class. Here, a family falls apart. A marriage that has been in decline for awhile disintegrates, the husband is sued for sexual assault by a young female associate at his law firm and ends up serving jail time for a DWI. His humiliated wife takes their 13-year old adopted Asian daughter and moves from the New York suburbs into Manhattan, where she...more
Dan
A fairytale with lessons for grownups
Early in “A Thousand Pardons,” Jonathan Dee’s crafty and wise parable of loss and redemption, a seasoned professional describes how the practice of public relations works: “We tell stories. We tell stories to the public because stories are what people pay attention to, what they remember.”

Stories, indeed, are what persuade and entertain and become like stickpins in our brain. And Dee, in his newest tale of soaring hubris and crashing ennui, is a really, reall...more
Zoeytron
Disjointed is the word that comes to mind with the plot of this book. The puzzle pieces were all there (plus a few extra that seemed to belong to a different puzzle altogether), but you had to try too hard to make them fit.

The prose itself was superb. Jonathan Dee's apt observations about a marriage that is in the throes of dying were painful to read, sheer perfection. 'It's like a death sentence coming back to the house every night.' and 'I am bored to near panic by my home and my work and my...more
Jack Rochester
Why did I not like this book? Let me count the ways, in no particular order. I did not like the narrator: it presumes a shared perspective with the reader, and I didn't share it. Take, for example, the first sentence: "Helen tried not to look at her watch, because looking at your watch never changed anything...." Why does the narrator address me and my watch? I do not even wear a watch, and if I did, I don't want to hear this narrator telling me what my perception of my watch ought to be. It is...more
Ngan
2.5 stars, really. Having never read Jonathan Dee before, I had very few expectations for this book, which was a good thing because this book was slow and lacked character and plot development. After a very promising start wherein Ben basically has a meltdown and ruins his seemingly perfect family situation, the book spirals downwards and does not recover. While Ben and Helen's emotional detachment from each other and their lives in general seems real enough, there was very little growth by eith...more
Dorothy
Very slim book. Very unbelievable. Very sparse. Very rushed. Very forgettable.

The premise was good. A husband who can't bear his boring days, his stay at home wife who's very upset when he massively screws up, and their adopted Chinese daughter who takes the brunt of parents too self involved to pay attention to her.

But, after a nice beginning, the husband goes away to rehab and then jail in shame and the stay at home wife takes a train to Manhattan, goes on 3 interviews, gets a job and then be...more
Anne
From the hype comparing Dee to Jonathan Franzen and Richard Russo, I thought I was in for a true literary treat. All to that the fact that he was a finalist for a Pulitzer and I was excited to find a new author.

Sorry to say this book was just so-so. His writing style is good but the content was lacking and much of it bordered on the unbelievable. Since it was a short novel, I went ahead and finished it but certainly don't have any incentive to read any of his other offerings.
Snotchocheez
I've not read Jonathan Dee's Pulitzer Prize finalist The Privileges yet, but I figured that honor coupled with the jacket's ever-so-helpful comparison of Dee's talent to the likes of Franzen and Russo made this a no-brainer for me.

So much for not using my brain. This is a contrived, banal mess of a novel that aspires for loftiness but can't rise above a) its lack of a realistic plot, b) cringe-worthy dialog, and c) one-dimensional characters that are impossible to rally behind. Somehow we the r...more
Kim
I can't decide whether this is a wonderful book or just a trite light read. I read it because the excerpt on Amazon drew me in so quickly that I was brought up short when the excerpt ended and realized I had blown through 17 pages in about 4 minutes. Then I bought it at an airport bookstore and read the entire thing cover to cover on a flight from San Francisco to DC. These two facts would suggest I loved the book. But I'm not convinced. The story is a cliche tale of privileged suburban marital...more
Featherbooks
A Thousand Pardons is a beautifully written and engrossing story about marriage, divorce, celebrity and public relations with their companion wrinkles and tragedies and the ever present need for forgiveness. The characters are not particularly affecting, perhaps too removed from the reader as well as from each other, but their stories are and Dee presents them with skill and insight . The section involving the two men marooned together in the house was amusing and truthful. The ending leaves me...more
Bette BookAddict
Aug 05, 2013 Bette BookAddict rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: all readers
Shelves: literary-fiction


Jonathan Dee is a master of literary fiction. His language is purposeful, mature and his sentences are a beautiful construct. He expects a grown-up reader. He does not lead you by the hand; he expects you to make certain leaps yourself. I don't think he is an easy read: that is to say, he keeps you on your toes. You simply cannot skim in his novels. You may well miss an integral nugget of information, a gem of a sentence or a gorgeous turn of phrase.

It seems that Ben and Helen Armstead have it a...more
Randy
I've always liked Jonathan Dee's writing, although not always his characters, and in this book, I feel as if he was riding above the characters and the story line, never fully entrenched, so I never felt fully involved. A lot happens, a lot of it a little hard to believe, especially the woman who hasn't worked in 13 years who gets four interviews the minute she starts job hunting without any specific experience [has Dee checked out the job search world lately?] and then realizes a stellar nearly...more
Diane S.
I wanted to like this novel more than I did but I found quite a bit of it unbelievable and some of it a cliche. A modern marriage in trouble, a counselors office, and this novel starts out strong as the reader now knows this is a marriage in serious trouble. Ben, the husband, is bored with his life, no surprises left, doing the same thing day after day. I am just a little tired reading about immature middle aged men who are not ready to let go of their youth. That he goes on to self destruct in...more
M
This book caught my eye in a bookstore because of it's striking cover. But we're not supposed to judge a book by its cover, I hear you cry. Well, lucky for me that I did as this turned out to be a gem.

It's been a while since I've read a novel that did not require some major pruning. This book is lean, clever, and did not have me reaching for the dictionary every five seconds due to clunky wordage (I'm looking at you, Lionel Shriver). The plot loses its way towards the end, and leaves us with at...more
Rebecca
Two years ago I heard Jonathan Dee read the beginning of this novel, and I was captivated. I couldn't wait to get my hands on this book. Finally that day arrived. The beginning (and by beginning I mean the first seven pages) was just as good as I remembered. The novel opens with a checked-out husband and frustrated wife on their way to marriage therapy, explained to their eye-rolling daughter as "date night." Dee's writing is crisp and I always enjoy bummed-out-in-the-suburbs stories, so we were...more
Ann
Self-absorption, narcissism and destructive behavior typify the characters in Jonathan Dee’s astute novel on depravity, recklessness, redemption and forgiveness. In a culture that breeds abandoning family responsibility for the sake of personal “freedom,” A Thousand Pardons is hauntingly familiar. Far too many women in this country find themselves in situations similar to Helen Armstead — sitting among the ruins of their shattered lives, attempting to make sense of a spouse gone mad, while at th...more
Hilary
In the opening pages of Rabbit, Run, Rabbit Angstrom seeks to escape his stultifying marital home life with a relaxing drive that turns permanent when he decides not to return home to his young wife and child. It’s the sort of willful abandonment of responsibilities that rock n’ roll songs are written about (see, e.g., Springsteen’s “Hungry Heart,” which begins, “Got a wife and kids in Baltimore, Jack/I went out for a ride and I never came back.”) A Thousand Pardons shows just how much whinier a...more
Laurel-Rain
An inevitable parting of the ways for a middle-aged couple living the privileged suburban life is hastened by the husband Ben's drastic and catastrophic actions.

Helen must find a job, and without too much difficulty, lands in a small public relations firm. She finds an apartment in Manhattan for her and teenage daughter Sara, and inexplicably makes her mark as a skilled Crisis Management negotiator in the firm. A divorce is followed by Helen's ownership of the house, which she eventually sells t...more
Mark Stevens
The narrative style of “A Thousand Pardons” uses a technique that is not my favorite. Jonathan Dee switches points of view mid-scene. Dee doesn’t do this all the time, just here and there. (I don't mind switching at chapters or at marked breaks, but I'm talking about mid-scene.)

Late in “A Thousand Pardons,” we are also inside the head of a new character—and I have a pet peeve against these late-novel introductions. I prefer writers who establish a rotation or mix of characters and stick to them....more
Tracie
On the surface, Ben and Helen Armstead have everything: a nice home, a close family, and financial stability. When Ben begins to look at the day to day routine of it all and balks at it, their world falls apart.
Helen, who has been very content to remain a stay at home mom, finds herself suddenly thrust into the workplace; a place with which she has had little to no experience. Here is where the book falls apart for me. While I find Ben's middle aged malaise and later disintegration believable,...more
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

Jonathan Dee is the author of five novels. He is a staff writer for The New York Times Magazine, a frequent contributor to Harper's, and a former senior editor of The Paris Review. He teaches in the graduate writing programs at Columbia University and the New School.
More about Jonathan Dee...
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