May We Be Forgiven by A M Homes - review by Joanna Kavenna

Joanna Kavenna

Death of a Salesman

May We Be Forgiven


Granta Books 480pp £16.99

With satire, the author walks a tightrope: how to mock and upbraid her characters, without alienating the reader entirely? How to make them risible, overblown, and yet sympathetic? In her latest novel, A M Homes not only walks this tightrope but juggles fire and does a few backflips at the same time. May We Be Forgiven is a vitriolic satire of contemporary American society, often very funny and at times completely savage. No one escapes, least of all the reader, who lurches, punch-drunk, from one boisterously tasteless scene to another. A dog licks up the blood of his murdered mistress, and then succumbs to diarrhoea; a fragile pensioner, wired up to various life-sustaining machines, rapes his equally incapacitated wife. Of course we are well beyond the ritual scatologies of modernism: it is no longer shocking to find characters fucking, shitting, pissing, puking or wanking. Yet, in May We Be Forgiven, A M Homes breaks new ground in viscera. Her novel shoves the reader headfirst into gore and excreta, everything inflected by a sense of life as an incompetent and ultimately futile revolt against entropy, dissolution and decay. 

Homes has touched on the untouchable before – her 1996 novel, The End of Alice, relayed the inner life of a paedophile and child murderer. In other works, such as Music for Torching (1999) and This Book Will Save Your Life (2006), Homes mercilessly tormented her characters, before granting them

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

RLF - March

A Mirror - Westend

Follow Literary Review on Twitter