Sunday, June 29, 2008

Forgive Me by Amanda Eyre Ward

It's been a busy weekend. I've been off picnicking and bowling and doing all sorts of things of that nature. I bowled three games last night and had a final score of 113 for all three. Weird much?

Between all my activity, I had the opportunity to do some unofficial cheerleading for Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-thon. Congratulations to all you readers out there who did the read-a-thon, especially those of you who managed to stay awake and read for the whole 24 hours. I was only able to visit a small portion of your blogs during the read-a-thon but it was great fun getting to visit and encourage those few of you that I was able to in the time I had available. Great job, readers! And great job Dewey and helpers for pulling it all off again!

Now it's time for another review that I've been putting off for awhile. Yet another that wasn't bad but wasn't great either. At long last, I've tried my hand at it.

Journalist Nadine Morgan isn't afraid to go anywhere and do anything to get the news stories that count. She's not afraid to look death in the face, she doesn't shy away from even the most grisly crimes against humanity, and she never gets so attached to one place that she won't dash to another to seek out the next big story. The things that haunt Nadine are far more mundane: the long distant death of her mother followed by her father's subsequent neglect, her best friend's choice of full time motherhood over what Nadine would call a more worthwile livelihood, and scariest of all, the threat of being trapped for any length of time on Cape Cod, a place she'd escaped as soon as she was able.

Amanda Eyre Ward's latest novel, Forgive Me, proceeds in three sections as Nadine returns to South Africa to follow up on the story of a Cape Cod native whose death brought her there in the first place. One follows her current activities as she begins to question whether she hungers and thirsts for stories like she once did, or whether she'd rather "settle" for the handsome Dr. Duarte waiting back in Nantucket. As she awaits the trial of Cape Cod native Jason Irving's killers, she finds herself chasing his parents to get their take on the events while doing some serious soul-searching of her own about what she really wants out of life and how to atone for her past in South Africa that continues to dog her steps. The second part offers brief glimpses into her past in South Africa as she sought the major story that would open the door to endless career opportunities. Neither her friends nor her lover can stand in the way of her naked ambition to seek out this lifechanging story. The third part, somewhat incongruously, is the journal of a flamboyant youngster seeking fame through his talent for musical theater, despite his reservations about the man who would open those doors for him.

Had this not been my third read by Amanda Eyre Ward, there's a distinct chance I might have enjoyed it more. As it happens, though, I've begun to recognize her writing pattern and knew that things certainly weren't as they seemed and that the three separate narratives would inevitably resolve themselves in an unexpected way. Nadine isn't a particularly lovable character and her budding relationship with the unlikely Dr. Duarte failed to draw me in. Ward's efforts to alternate between times and storylines results in writing that is a bit choppy and failed to fully engage me in her main character's story. That said, Ward is a great master of suspenseful literary fiction. Despite the fact that there is no particular mystery to be solved, no lives particularly at stake, and no one event that hangs in the balance, Ward keeps you hanging on until the end wondering if Nadine will find what she's been looking for all her life that ultimately has very little to do with her career goals and just how these three narrative threads are going to resolve themselves.

Ward's novel is certainly interesting enough, but I felt there was some special something lacking. Forgive Me is a quick, easy, interesting read about a woman who never managed to find herself and a South Africa trying to heal itself from years of Apartheid with a healthy, if unexpected, moral to the story. Unfortunately, however, I fear that for me it will end up being a bit too easily forgotten.

(I also fear that this review makes me sound a bit too much like Simon from American Idol. Tune in next week for a review of a book that I didn't have such an ambiguous feeling about, Three Cups of Tea).


  1. We'll just start calling you Simon, it's ok!

  2. I thought your review was very well balanced. This is the first and so far only book I have read by Amanda Eyre Ward and I did enjoy it, but there were certain elements that kind of kept me from enjoying it more. I liked the premise of the story quite a bit and in the end was glad I had the chance to read it. I do hope to read more by this author.

  3. Anxious to hear what you think of Three Cups of Tea...that's one I've been wanting to read.

  4. Sorry to hear it was predictable!

    I've heard "Three Cups of Tea" is very good, I look forward to your thoughts on it :)

    **Seen my latest giveaway? It's "Aberrations" by Penelope Przekop. Comment here.

  5. I'll look forward to your review of Three Cups of Tea. I found myself whispering an apology in my review - I love the core of the story itself, it's a great cause; but I had a very hard time with the writing style.