Kurt's Reviews > Forgive Me

Forgive Me by Amanda Eyre Ward
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Jul 23, 2011

it was ok

After two terrific novels, Ward is entitled to something of a well-meaning disappointment. There is a fascinating subplot told through a young boy's journal entries, and Ward does a great job of bringing the reader into her South African settings, and the dialogue toward the end is both believable and poetic, but the first hundred pages or so are just one stumble after another. Clumsy exposition, an implausible romance, a character who comes across as more of a tough woman journalist fantasy than a real character...

I once took a class on international criminal law, and we examined the TRC hearings that ostensibly drive the novel's primary plot, so I had high hopes, but the hearings are dismissed as almost a politically aware MacGuffin. Ward wastes a great opportunity to explore how a family comes to decide if they will forgive their child's murderer and how a community deals with systemic issues of guilt and forgiveness and truth and punishment. This potentially powerful and life-changing story gets brushed aside and absorbed as one more tool for the protagonist to make the whole world revolve around herself.

Also, as someone frequently dealing with an altered relationship with my dad after my mom's death, I was worried when I started to read that this novel's protagonist had a similar family network, but at least I could be relieved that this was one more avenue of forgiveness that Ward (through her protagonist) fails to travel.

It pains me to write such a negative review for such a talented author. Ward has remarkable abilities with dialogue, structure, setting, and presenting difficult people in sympathetic ways. How to Be Lost and Sleep Toward Heaven are marvelous gems. Forgive Me, though, wastes Ward's strengths in a novel that had the potential to be so much better.
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