Monday, January 21, 2008

Pg. 99: Amanda Eyre Ward's "Forgive Me"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Amanda Eyre Ward's Forgive Me.

About the book, from the publisher's website:
From the acclaimed author of How to Be Lost comes a gorgeous new novel about love, memory, and motherhood.

Nadine Morgan travels the world as a journalist, covering important events, following dangerous leads, and running from anything that might tie her down. Since an assignment in Cape Town ended in tragedy and regret, Nadine has not returned to South Africa, or opened her heart – until she hears the story of Jason Irving.

Jason, an American student, was beaten to death by angry local youths at the height of the apartheid era. Years later, his mother is told that Jason’s killers have applied for amnesty. Jason’s parents pack their bags and fly from Nantucket to Cape Town. Filled with rage, Jason’s mother resolves to fight the murderers’ pleas for forgiveness.

As Nadine follows the Irvings to beautiful, ghost-filled South Africa, she is flooded with memories of a time when the pull toward adventure and intrigue left her with a broken heart. Haunted by guilt and a sense of remorse, and hoping to lose herself in her coverage of the murder trial, Nadine grows closer to Jason’s mother as well as to the mother of one of Jason’s killers – with profound consequences. In a country both foreign and familiar, Nadine is forced to face long-buried demons, come to terms with the missing pieces of her own family past, and learn what it means to truly love and to forgive.

With her dazzling prose and resonant themes, Amanda Eyre Ward has joined the ranks of such beloved American novelists as Anne Tyler and Ann Patchett. Gripping, darkly humorous, and luminous, Forgive Me is an unforgettable story of dreams and longing, betrayal and redemption.
Among the praise for Forgive Me:
"Upon finishing Ward's tantalizingly spare yet precisely powerful novel, readers will want to start all over again, looking for the clues they missed the first time around when Ward, like a cunning magician, so deftly led them astray. So adroit is Ward at throwing readers off the track throughout this piercing tale of one emotionally wounded woman's attempt to reconcile the gut-wrenching decisions she makes in the name of professionalism with the heartbreaking choices she faces in her personal life, that its sinewy, often mysterious, subplot doesn't reveal itself until almost the very end. An aggressive foreign correspondent driven by her need to repudiate her provincial New England background through her headstrong pursuit of stories set in the world's most perilous locations, Nadine follows a local couple to post-apartheid South Africa, the site of their greatest tragedy and her greatest love. She is fleeing a new relationship, running headlong into her past, while they are about to face their son's killer, a young black girl who is begging for their mercy. Mercy is hard to come by in Ward's world, but when it is, finally, granted, its deliverance is sweet and sure."
--Booklist (starred review)

"As rendered through Amanda Eyre Ward¹s impeccable prose, two stories, past and present, join to create an engrossing, mature, devastating work about motherhood and remembrance. Forgive Me is an exceptional novel, infused with a deep emotional intelligence."
--Adrienne Miller, author of The Coast of Akron

"Amanda Eyre Ward tells a compelling story in Forgive Me -- full of hard truths, and no easy answers. This is a book readers will fly through -- but also one that will linger and haunt."
--Dani Shapiro, author of Family History

Emotional distance and the price it extracts drive the thoughtful and compulsively readable "Forgive Me." Amanda Eyre Ward chronicles one woman's tenuous journey along a road of self-forgiveness to salvation, taking the reader along an unpredictable path. Ward's prose is clean, and the story moves efficiently forward, with enough detail and dialogue to make her points without unnecessary fluff. The resulting novel is a quick and impacting read. The characters and situations are resonantly drawn, so much so that this is a novel that is over much too soon."
--Robin Vidimos, The Denver Post

"Inspired by the true story of Amy Biehl, an American Fulbright scholar who was, while in South Africa, viciously stoned to death while she drove her student home from class, "Forgive Me," the latest from author Amanda Eyre Ward ("How to Be Lost," "Sleep Toward Heaven"), is taut, powerful and deeply melancholy, a message of memory and responsibility. Ward's prose is elegant and dramatic without beating you over your head with sentimentality-this is a story, it seems, she needed to tell. Nadine Morgan, a world-traveling journalist, hasn't returned to South Africa since she suffered great loss, until she hears of Jason Irving, a young American student who was beaten to death (this all occurs during the height of apartheid). The boy's parents, years later, are devastated to find that their son's killers have now applied for amnesty. The three venture to a land of chaos and tortured remembrance. Ward's book, lovely and exhausting, should be devoured."
--Tom Lynch, NewCity Chicago
Read an excerpt from Forgive Me and learn more about the author and her writing at Amanda Eyre Ward's website.

Amanda Eyre Ward's other books include How to Be Lost and Sleep Toward Heaven.

The Page 99 Test: Forgive Me.

--Marshal Zeringue