Finished Homes’ May We Be Forgiven yesterday sitting in the dentist chair waiting for my new tooth. I’ve watched my grandson finish a book and immediately dive back into it, sometimes at the beginning but more often at random throughout the book. It is how we will continue to read a book long after the first read.
I did a bit of that yesterday with Homes. I had debated taken a second book with me to the dentist but was a bit self conscious about doing so so I didn’t. At the end of the book Horace Silver (the main character) says something about not fearing the other shoe falling, that he’s not even wear shoes.
The book comes full circle from one Thanksgiving to another and takes place in one fantastic year of events and changes. Jane who is saddled with preparing the Thanksgiving meal for a large group of mostly unconscious people including her sadistic self obsessed violent husband George has been murdered by him. George is sequestered in state facility of some sort. Horace ponders what kind of Thanksgiving meal George is experiencing this year. He thinks of “pressed turkey breast,
jellied cranberry slices still bearing the ringlike indentations from the can,
and glutinous white-bread stuffing.”
Silver wonders “Is there pumpkin pie in prison? If there is, does it have any flavor at all?”
For me these are potent musings at the end of a long and weird wonderful book. As the blurb by Rushdie (who made the Acknowledgments at the end of the book as did Zadie Smith) on the back of book says, the book “starts at maximum force.” The first hundred pages are brutal. But the reader spends the rest of the book inside the spinning head of Horace Silver as he feels his way to a new life of connection to people who seem to fall into his life almost at random but with charm.
Near the end of the book even sitting in the dentist chair I began to feel that Homes maybe went too far with her redemption thing. After the initial brutality the most intense moments are moments of comic genius studded throughout the unwieldy and complicated narrative. The surreal bar mitzvah in which Silver gathers a community around his nephew (that’s right, George’s kid) and makes a pilgrimage to a South African village is fraught with screaming foreshadowing that ANOTHER TERRIBLE THING IS ABOUT TO HAPPEN.
The air goes out of this balloon and nothing terrible happens just surreal comedy and commentary. In fact there is a bonding between and a deepening maturing that Silver observes in the young people of the book that continues back in their lives stateside.
I wonder about the lack of a second terrible thing in the book. I wonder about the obvious point Homes is making at the end about the trajectory from a typical dysfunctional Thanksgiving at the beginning of the book and then an odd unreal happy Thanksgiving at the end of the book which includes turning off The Mighty Joe Young on the TV (also playing at the first Thanksgiving) and the absence of screens in the hands of the youth. Silver feels “a distinct absence of tension” that to me is a tad unconvincing.
Nevertheless I did like the book.