Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Forgive Me by Amanda Eyre Ward

Forgive Me by Amanda Eyre Ward
Random House, 2007 (ARE)
Fiction; 238 pgs

Completed: 06/19/2007
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.


  1. I decided about a week ago that I need to choose one of hers and read it! Not sure which one, but I'm glad you enjoyed this one.

  2. Great review!

    If you ever want to know more about South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, I would recommend No Future Without Forgiveness by Desmond Tutu. It's his personal memoir about his time spent chairing the commission.

  3. I've yet to read one of Amanda Eyre Ward's books, but I've got a couple on my wish list. Africa is tiring me, unfortunately. I'm in the midst of one memoir, have another propped on the futon, and need to read Cry the Beloved Country so I'll be able to quiz the kiddo. I'm ready to head for another continent, reading-wise. :)

  4. This was the one I supposed to get through Library Thing, but instead I ended up with Lisa See's novel (that was okay - I wanted to read Peony in Love!). Glad to hear you liked this...I think this is a book I'd enjoy.

  5. Hi Wendy! Great review!
    I haven't read anything by Amanda Eyre Ward, but this one definitely sounds interesting.

  6. Great review! I'm definitely adding this one to my TBR list. I read Sleep Toward Heaven by Ward earlier this year and while it wasn't the best book ever it really stayed with me. So I really want to read more by her.

  7. Joy - It's funny because all of a sudden the author's name is coming up everywhere I look--so many people are reading her books although not so much this one yet. It's a promising sign.

    Nyssaneala - Thank you! And thank you for the book recommendation. I am interested in reading more on the topic and will add No Future Without Forgiveness to my wish list.

    Nancy - I know what you mean. LOL I am ready for something lighter after having just finished Beasts of No Nation. Definitely a mystery but do I want to read a challenge book or the Janet Evanovich's latest which I know will be light reading? Choices, choices . . .

    Wendy - I noticed a lot of people were told they would get this one and didn't. I wonder if perhaps Tim sent out the wrong post to all of you who got the wrong book? I also put my name in for Lisa See's latest book (didn't get it though) and am glad you enjoyed it. :-)

    Melody - Thank you! It really is an interesting book and worth reading.

    Iliana - Thanks! The author has an interesting writing style. I'll be curious to read more by her in the future.

  8. have my eye on this, it looks good. i'm not going to read your musings until i have a chance to read it myself.

    ps. love the new look of the blog.

  9. Thank you, Monica. I'm much happier with the new format myself. I do hope you will enjoy Forgive Me when you get to it.


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