K's Reviews > Blame

Blame by Michelle Huneven
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Nov 19, 10

bookshelves: audiobooks, should-ve-been-shorter

Once again, a great premise and decent writing, while important, are not sufficient conditions for a great book. Once again, an author takes a complex story idea with rich potential and cops out by having it degenerate into Harlequin-worthy romance and ordinary family tale. Sigh.

Imagine waking up from an alcohol-induced blackout to be informed that you’ve killed two innocent people by driving drunk and are now in jail, awaiting sentencing. You, leading a standard middle-class life except for this unfortunate little alcohol problem, suddenly find yourself in a women’s prison with people you never imagined you’d rub shoulders with. Great story concept, right?

Sadly, the execution left a lot to be desired. First, to borrow a line from one of Lisa’s reviews, it’s pretty annoying when books don’t start on page 1. Instead of opening with the above scenario as I was led to expect, the book began with a long, marginally relevant anecdote in which the main character played a minor role. This anecdote introduced some of the side characters but didn’t do much else for the narrative other than delaying the story I thought I was going to read.

Eventually there was an abrupt shift in viewpoint and I arrived at Patsy’s (the main character) shocking discovery. For me, this was the strongest part of the book – although I’ve never been in prison, the descriptions and interactions rang true and were gripping at times. Unfortunately the book began to go downhill and never made it back up. Patsy’s return to sobriety, beginning with prison AA meetings and continuing after her release, seemed way too easy. When Patsy was released from prison, we were told it was a difficult adjustment for her but she seemed to be instantly surrounded by devoted new friends, including a young gay man who was clearly meant to be lovable and adorable but reminded me of Jar Jar Binks from Episode I of Star Wars. Patsy got involved with men again but this, too, was pretty simplistic and clichéd – eventually realizing that her first post-prison relationship was all about chemistry and didn’t go deeper than that, Patsy rejected that guy for Mr. AA saint, who, like everyone else in the book, loved her with an unequivocal devotion that was difficult to understand. Some later ups and downs with Mr. AA Saint appeared to be more about Patsy’s selfishness and somewhat inexplicable dissatisfaction than about anything AA Saint did wrong.

Other problems I had with this book included uneven pacing – some events were told in long, drawn-out detail while others were quickly summarized and moved past. I could not detect any rhyme or reason for the author’s choosing to do this; the events which were described in full, even overwritten, were no more interesting or relevant than the ones which were mentioned in passing. In fact, overall much of Patsy’s post-prison life was pretty banal. And maybe life really is like that, but I was hoping to be gripped by a compelling description of Patsy’s struggle to get back into life, not reading endlessly about mundane details of day-to-day existence and uninteresting interactions.

Worst of all, while I certainly found Patsy’s initial situation sympathetic I didn’t find her particularly sympathetic as a character. Nothing about her resonated with me or made me want to read more about her or about her life. When she had an inner freak attack over her adult stepchild’s accidentally nicking her fancy new kitchen counter I knew I was supposed to sympathize with Patsy, even admire her for her restraint in not blowing up at the stepchild. Instead I found myself thinking, Lady, I just don’t want to know you. As someone who frequently opens my house to extended family members, I know firsthand how difficult it can be to have houseguests but still find it really hard to relate to a woman who actively resents her husband’s allowing his children to stay with them because she wants to enjoy her top-of-the-line new kitchen unencumbered. A better author would have made me feel Patsy’s pain despite the distance from my value system; this author failed in that respect. And by the way, ditto for guys who refuse to speak to friends for rejecting their decorating ideas. I’m supposed to like these characters?

Finally, the dramatic plot twist toward the end was visible a mile away; the book’s description basically gave it away. The way this twist came about required a great deal of suspension of disbelief – too much – and in my opinion, while this development did raise a few interesting questions, ultimately it didn’t do a lot for the story as a whole.

Too bad. I’m not a Jodi Picoult person, but I actually think this book would have worked better had she written it.
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Comments (showing 1-13 of 13) (13 new)

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message 1: by rivka (new)

rivka Tsk! People in AA aren't even supposed to date for a full year.

But it sounds like nagging details like that aren't priorities to this book. ;)


message 2: by K (new) - rated it 2 stars

K Ha! I didn't even know that! Although in all fairness, maybe it was more than a year before she started dating; the timeline was kind of fuzzy and the book covered a span of about 20 years.


message 3: by rivka (new)

rivka The things you learn from romantic comedies and sitcoms. ;) (Actually, I have no idea where I learned about the AA thing. It's one of those things I've known for a long time.)


message 4: by K (new) - rated it 2 stars

K You're a font of useful information, Rivka! ;)


message 5: by rivka (new)

rivka That sounds ever so much better than know-it-all! *twinkle*


message 6: by Mummy (new)

Mummy Too bad. I’m not a Jodi Picoult person, but I actually think this book would have worked better had she written it.

Damning with faint praise indeed!


message 7: by K (new) - rated it 2 stars

K Yes, well. I went through a Jodi Picoult phase many years ago and eventually started to feel like I was reading the same book over and over. But Picoult has her strengths, and I think her formula would have done this premise more justice than its actual execution did.


message 8: by rivka (new)

rivka Khaya wrote: "I went through a Jodi Picoult phase many years ago and eventually started to feel like I was reading the same book over and over."

Yeah. This is why I can only read a Picoult books about once every 6 months. Then I enjoy them -- more often, and I really don't. So I get them from my sister and then they mellow for a while. ;)


message 9: by K (new) - rated it 2 stars

K Some books, like other things, are best enjoyed in small, infrequent doses.


message 10: by rivka (new)

rivka Exactly.


message 11: by Amy (new) - rated it 1 star

Amy Arsenault Great review. Agreed completely. Thanks for not giving the plot twist away as I haven't gotten there yet (I'm having a hard time getting anywhere in this book.)


Colleen Thank you! I just posted a very similar review and had similar problems with this story but I kept thinking maybe I missed the deep meaning or point or something somehow... It's good to know I'm not the only one that thought about the book this way.


message 13: by K (new) - rated it 2 stars

K Thanks, Amy and Colleen! Amy, sorry I didn't see your comment earlier; by now hopefully you've moved on to a better book. ;) Colleen, it always feels good to be validated. I'll look for your review.


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