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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: A Novel and Sleep Toward Heaven: A Novel are marvelous gems. Forgive Me, though, wastes Ward's strengths in a novel that had the potential to be so much better.
I must admit it has some very confusing areas where who is the party speaking and where they are is not readily noticeable. I found it a fast read but I read very fast. Although it has twist and turns I don't really think that all of them added to the quality of the book.Some times I just wanted to shake my head and would say to myself, where is she or he or why is this confusion happening at this point. It made some interesting points on South Africa , Apartheid and post Apartheid. It was very realistic in the anger, hate and violence on both sides. I found it a sad book.
Loved this novel even whilst realizing its flaws. It's courageous for a white U.S. writer to tackle South Africa in fiction and this book comes very close to making to making it work. In fact, it worked for me ... but others will likely pick it to pieces ... and that's what you get when you write about such horror. Kudos to Ward for looking into the horror. And, for writing a finest kind novel.
I love her first two books but this one was a bit disjointed and I got a bit confused with the characters and time of events. I finished it and enjoyed parts of the story but prefer reading books without the jumping around from place to place and time.
I liked the writing style as well as the story. Readers are smartly led astray becomming a mystery until the very end. You might need to reread some sections to be sure what you think is actually what it is. As a book club selection, it invoked a lively discussion.