The 2013 Women’s Prize for Fiction, formerly the Orange Prize for Fiction, went to: May We Be Forgiven by A M Homes
A darkly comic novel of twenty-first-century domestic life and the possibility of personal transformation
Harold Silver has spent a lifetime watching his younger brother, George, a taller, smarter, and more successful high-flying TV executive, acquire a covetable wife, two kids, and a beautiful home in the suburbs of New York City. But Harry, a historian and Nixon scholar, also knows George has a murderous temper, and when George loses control the result is an act of violence so shocking that both brothers are hurled into entirely new lives in which they both must seek absolution.
Harry finds himself suddenly playing parent to his brother’s two adolescent children, tumbling down the rabbit hole of Internet sex, dealing with aging parents who move through time like travelers on a fantastic voyage. As Harry builds a twenty-first-century family created by choice rather than biology, we become all the more aware of the ways in which our history, both personal and political, can become our destiny and either compel us to repeat our errors or be the catalyst for change.
May We Be Forgiven is an unnerving, funny tale of unexpected intimacies and of how one deeply fractured family might begin to put itself back together. (View on Goodreads)
A word from Publisher’s Weekly:
It’s difficult to keep track of the number of awful things that happen to Harold Silver in the first 100 pages of Homes’s plodding latest novel. It is equally difficult to care that these things happen to him. Harold’s brother, whose anger problem is alluded to but never explicitly mentioned, goes crazy and murders his wife, among other acts of cruelty. In the wake of this tragedy, Harold is made legal guardian of his brother’s children. Harold’s life continues to unravel as he gets a divorce, loses his job, begins online dating, and endures many other crises that require intense self-reflection. Harold eventually triumphs over his various problems, evolving into the loving, supportive, and thoughtful man he’s never been, but the process feels forced, implausible, and overwrought. While Homes (The Mistress’s Daughter) successfully creates a convincing male protagonist, everything else about Harold’s story fails to persuade. If the reader was given a better sense of who Harold was before his life fell apart, we might be more invested in who he later becomes. The novel suffers from Homes’s insistence on having Harold’s life continually move from bad to worse, forgetting that sometimes less is more.