Monday, September 13, 2010

Blame, by Michele Huneven

Friday night marks the beginning of the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, Yom Kippur. Commonly translated as The Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur is a day of fasting and contemplation. On Yom Kippur we don't ask for forgiveness from the people we have hurt; we should have already done that. On Yom Kippur we ask for God's forgiveness for our transgressions against Him.

It is particularly timely then, in this season of accepting responsibility and granting forgiveness, to review Michelle Huneven's "Blame." In an inventive plot, Patsy MacLemore, a History professor and reckless alcoholic has, in one of her standard evenings out, a blackout. When she wakes up she finds she is in jail, and discovers that while under the influence she had a terrible accident in her own driveway, killing two people. The bulk of the novel goes on to explore the changes Patsy goes through when she is convicted, serves her prison sentence, is subsequently released, and, with the help of AA, slowly learns how to rebuild her life, accepting the blame for the deaths of two innocent victims.

I had a few minor squabbles with "Blame." The first section concentrates not on Patsy, but on one of the book's supporting characters, and I felt a little mislead and confused when I finally realized, a third of the way through the book, that this minor character wasn't the protagonist. Was this just my peri-menopausal-brain's need for simplicity? Perhaps. Also, I found the last scene, although quite poetic, a little heavy-handed in its attempt at allegory. Still, if you're looking for a well-crafted, thought-provoking read in this season of atonement, then check out "Blame." (Also perfect fodder for book clubs)

Also, in a nod to Yom Kippur, here is Marjorie Ingall's article on the uber popular young adult novel "Hunger Games" and how it relates to this season. Due to my technical skills, or lack thereof, you'll have to cut and paste this as the link didn't come through....

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