(Reviewed by Guy Savage FEB 15, 2008)
"Sometimes Nadine felt interviewees pulling away from her, as if they thought she could not understand their reality, or might judge them. She used her own secrets then, handing over personal tidbits like bargaining chips, creating a sense of intimacy that almost always led subjects to reveal deeper truths about themselves."
Author Amanda Eyre Ward’s eloquent, moving novel Forgive Me is the story of one woman who comes to terms with both the past and the present--learning to forgive others and herself in the process. Set against the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings in South Africa, forgiveness is the main theme of the novel, and it’s a theme explored with compelling sensitivity.
Reporter Nadine Morgan has spent the last ten years traveling the globe chasing her next story. Driven to pursue the news--no matter the risk, she takes chances, often throwing caution to the winds in the process. Nadine seems largely unaffected by scenes of unimaginable violence, and over the years, she’s developed a reputation of being “hot for gore.” After witnessing a decade of violence across the globe, she seems untouched by the deaths, the grief and the anguish she’s witnessed. But then again, perhaps she’s harder, more polished, and reluctant to form permanent relationships. In fact the few permanent relationships Nadine had, she’s managed to drop, and as a result, she’s estranged from her father and she’s grown apart from her best friend, Lily. No one would guess that Nadine is a small town girl from Woods Hole in Cape Cod, but her desire to travel fed by her need to avoid facing the past, keeps her moving, and her career facilitates this. With the sum total of her worldly possessions stuffed into one bag, she leaves little trace of herself as she passes through scenes of appalling violence, but on the other hand she doesn’t seem to absorb the bloodshed and grief. Tragedies slide off Nadine leaving her largely untouched--an emotional tourist. Or at least it seems that way until violence brings Nadine reluctantly back home to Wood’s Hole.
When Nadine is attacked, beaten and left in a ditch in Mexico, this horrible incident has unexpected ramifications on her life. While recuperating on Cape Cod, Nadine learns that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings are underway in South Africa, and Nadine who has deeply-buried ties to this troubled country decides she must return. Leaving Cape Cod at this point in her life is not an easy decision for Nadine as she’s become emotionally involved with someone. Leaving may mean jeopardizing her new relationship, but Nadine feels compelled to return to South Africa and face long-hidden guilt and tragedy. On the journey, she meets the grief-stricken parents of Jason Irving, a young Cape Cod teacher who was brutally murdered by a fifteen-year-old black girl years earlier. Jason’s parents plan to attend the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings, but they have divided opinions on the subject of whether or not to agree to amnesty for the killer of their only son.
Parallels within the novel create a stunning symmetry. Nadine and Jason both hailed from the same area, and their fates are irrevocably tied to the civil unrest of South Africa. Jason’s murder was the reason Nadine went to South Africa in the first place, and now she’s returning, to put her grief and guilt to rest. Whereas Jason’s beating left him dead, Nadine’s beating forces her to take stock of her life--giving her a second chance--literally and figuratively.
A friend recommended this novel to me, and once I picked up Forgive Me and started reading it, I couldn’t put it down. This is a page-turner I finished in one sitting. Forgive Me is a great story, but even more than that, author Amanda Eyre Ward proves that she’s not just an excellent storyteller. Beyond the sheer readability of this book, the author asks some probing questions concerning the nature of violence, guilt and forgiveness. How are human beings capable of such incredible cruelty, and how are we affected by violence? Do victims of institutional or personal violence inevitably retaliate becoming violent themselves, or are some victims able to forgive and move on? What role does guilt play in the process of forgiveness? And just how important is forgiveness? These are all questions asked and answered in this eloquent, deeply moving novel. Ward writes with a clarity of vision and a strong sense of humanity and truth, and her clear, pure prose cuts right to the heart of the matter.
- Amazon readers rating: from 33 reviews
Chapter excerpt from Forgive Me at the author's website
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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)
- Sleep Toward Heaven (2003)
- How To Be Lost (2004)
- Forgive Me (2007)
- Love Stories in This Town (2009)
- Close Your Eyes (2011)
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- The official Web site for Amanda Eyre Ward
- A sample story by Amanda Eyre Ward
- MostlyFiction.com review of Sleep Toward Heaven
- MostlyFiction.com review of How to Be Lost
- MostlyFiction.com INTERVIEW with Amanda Eyre Ward on writing FORGIVE ME
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About the Author:Amanda Eyre Ward was born in New York City, and graduated from Williams College and the University of Montana.
Her short stories have appeared in Story Quarterly, the Mississippi Review, the New Delta Review, Salon.com, and the Austin Chronicle. She has also been a regular contributor to the Austin Chronicle for several years. She was named by the New York Post as one of five Writers to Watch in 2003.
She lives in Austin, Texas with her husband, the geologist Tip Meckel.