Forgive Me by Amanda Eyre Ward
Random House, 2007 (ARE)
Fiction; 238 pgs
Rating: (Very Good)
First Sentence: Nadine hears the parrots.
Reason for Reading: I signed up for a chance to preview this book through Library Thing's Early Reviewer program and was one of those lucky individuals selected to read it. It goes along perfectly with the current Africa kick I am on.
Comments: Amanda Eyre Ward takes difficult subject matter and writes in such a way that makes it easy to digest while at the same time, not taking away from the gravity of it. Forgive Me is the story of Nadine, a journalist who is used to being on the front line. She is a proud woman who leads an exciting life chasing down stories and putting her life in peril. She rarely takes time out to actually live her own life and face her own fears.
Her mother died when Nadine was a young girl, after which her father spent more time working than raising his daughter. Nadine longed to leave Woods Hole, Massachusetts where she grew up, wanting to see the world as her mother once longed to do. Nadine made that dream come true, never looking back.
When a brutal assault leaves her in need of bed rest and healing, she finds herself back in Woods Hole under the care of her father and his girlfriend. Nadine wants nothing more than to get back to work. Befriending the local doctor, Hank Duarte, Nadine finds a comfort she had not expected to find, and yet she still feels confused and alone.
When news reaches her that the parents of Jason Irving will be traveling to South Africa to argue against amnesty for one of their son’s murderers, Nadine’s mind is made up. She is determined to travel to South Africa to follow the story that she had first reported on all those years ago. During a time when apartheid was at its height, Jason Irving, an American teacher, was beaten to death by a group of angry youth. His murderers did not care that he was against apartheid, they only cared that his skin was white and believed his death would lead to the end of their oppression. Several years later, in an effort to promote democracy in the country, the new South African government enlisted the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to revisit old crimes of violence. Victims could come forward to seek justice and perpetrators of violence could request amnesty.
With her return to South Africa, Nadine is forced to face her own past, the tragedy and pain that she has had to live with all the years in between. Forgive Me is the perfect title for a book that in many ways speaks of redemption.
Amanda Eyre Ward’s story is multi-layered, each character being complex and their stories just as much so. She has created a cast of characters who are interesting and real. At one point in the novel Gwen, Nadine’s father’s girlfriend, comments that Nadine is like an onion with multiple layers. The author deftly demonstrates this as the story unfolds, the narrative weaving from the past to the present (present being the late 1990’s), with an occasional journal entry that adds an unexpected and more complex layer.
The author’s easy writing style makes this book a quick read, however it is not one that will sit lightly with the reader once the last page is read. The racial issues and violence of apartheid from both sides are explored as well as the recovery and healing process once that period in time has come to a close. Forgive Me is a moving novel that has heart and punch. It is well worth reading.
Favorite Part: I most enjoyed getting to know Nadine’s friends from her initial trip to Cape Town, George, Maxim and especially Thola. I wouldn’t have minded spending more time with Thola and her family, perhaps even getting to know Evelina, Thola’s sister, more. George and Maxim were once Nadine’s roommates while Thola was George’s African girlfriend.
I also liked spending time with Lily, Nadine’s best friend, particularly when she was putting Nadine in her place.
Miscellaneous: Out of the 7112 petitioners that went in front of the Amnesty Committee of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission seeking amnesty for violence crimes during the apartheid era, 5392 people were refused amnesty and 849 were granted amnesty.
Take a look at Puss Reboots review of Forgive Me.