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Blame

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Blame Cover

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Michelle Huneven, Richard Russo once wrote, is “a writer of extraordinary and thrilling talent.” That talent explodes with her third book, Blame, a spellbinding novel of guilt and love, family and shame, sobriety and the lack of it, and the moral ambiguities that ensnare us all.

The story: Patsy MacLemoore, a history professor in her late twenties with a brand-new Ph.D. from Berkeley and a wild streak, wakes up in jail—yet again—after another epic alcoholic blackout. “Okay, whatd I do?” she asks her lawyer and jailers. “I really dont remember.” She adds, jokingly: “Did I kill someone?”

In fact, two Jehovahs Witnesses, a mother and daughter, are dead, run over in Patsys driveway. Patsy, who was driving with a revoked license, will spend the rest of her life—in prison, getting sober, finding a new community (and a husband) in AA—trying to atone for this unpardonable act.

Then, decades later, another unimaginable piece of information turns up.

For the reader, it is an electrifying moment, a joyous, fall-off-the-couch-with-surprise moment. For Patsy, it is more complicated. Blame must be reapportioned, her life reassessed. What does it mean that her life has been based on wrong assumptions? What can she cleave to? What must be relinquished?

When Hunevens first novel, Round Rock, was published, Valerie Miner, in the Los Angeles Times Book Review, celebrated Hunevens “moral nerve, sharp wit and uncommon generosity.” The same spirit electrifies Blame. The novel crackles with life—and, like life, can leave you breathless.

Michelle Huneven is the author of two previous novels, Round Rock and Jamesland. She has received a General Electric Foundation Award for Younger Writers and a Whiting Writers Award for fiction. She lives in Altadena, California.

A National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist
A Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist

Michelle Huneven, Richard Russo once wrote, is “a writer of extraordinary and thrilling talent.” That talent explodes with her third book, Blame, a spellbinding novel of guilt and love, family and shame, sobriety and the lack of it, and the moral ambiguities that ensnare us all.

The story: Patsy MacLemoore, a history professor in her late twenties with a brand-new Ph.D. from Berkeley and a wild streak, wakes up in jail—yet again—after another epic alcoholic blackout. “Okay, whatd I do?” she asks her lawyer and jailers. “I really dont remember.” She adds, jokingly: “Did I kill someone?”  In fact, two Jehovahs Witnesses, a mother and daughter, have been run over and killed in Patsys driveway. Patsy, who was driving with a revoked license, will spend the rest of her life—in prison, getting sober, finding a new community (and a husband) in AA—trying to atone for this unpardonable act.

Then, decades later, another unimaginable piece of information turns up.

For the reader, it is an electrifying moment, a joyous, fall-off-the-couch-with-surprise moment. For Patsy, it is more complicated. Blame must be reapportioned, her life reassessed. What does it mean that her life has been based on wrong assumptions? What can she cleave to? What must be relinquished?

Blame crackles with life—and, like life, can leave you breathless.

"In her earlier novels, Michelle Huneven, the respected California writer, has been concerned with matters of Alcoholics Anonymous, transgression and forgiveness, but most of all with the construction of ad hoc families, the putting together of disparate groups of people who can trust each other, meet each other's needs. It's an extremely topical idea, given the American divorce rate and the growing gap between generations. If your conventional family frays beyond recognition, certainly a wise thing to do is to put together another one. Sometimes it works and, of course, sometimes it doesn't. Blame is set mainly in the towns of Pasadena and La Cañada Flintridge . . . settlements established in the early 20th century by wealthy Easterners who came to the Edenic climate and verdant landscape to build elegant winter homes and loved the place so much that they stayed year-round. But many of those fine old families lost some of their money and their focus during the following decades . . . Huneven focuses not just on the decay of individual families but on the fatal fraying of a painstakingly put-together society. These entitled communities have the Rose Bowl, sure, and the Valley Hunt Club, but their distinguishing landmark is the aptly named Suicide Bridge. Death permeates Blame. The beginning of this lovely novel shows us Joey, a lost little girl roaming an elegant hotel that houses an exclusive private club. Joey has been pulled out of school by her handsome, glamorous Uncle Brice, who has no idea what to do with her. Brice's sister, Joey's mother, is dying of cancer, but Brice is absolutely not up to the task of being responsible, caring, reasonable—whatever the occasion might require. Instead, he shows up at the hotel with one of his girlfriends, Patsy, who plies Joey with drinks and pills and later on pierces Joey's ears, crookedly. A few months later, Patsy wakes up in jail. She's already had a few DUIs; she prides herself on the fact that she's not only a young and brilliant college professor but also a dedicated party girl. Although she teases her jailers for being unnecessarily grim, she's in big trouble this time. It seems that she took her car out—even though her license had been revoked — and managed to run over a mother and daughter in her own driveway. So, yes, Patsy is pretty and smart, but now she's a murderer. Even with a diligent lawyer, she draws four years behind bars. The learned young professor and bon vivant has no idea how to live her new life. Her fellow inmates are, by and large, mean-tempered or crazy. It takes a while for her to make any friends, and a longer time than that to be lured into her first AA meeting. At this point, almost the only thing that makes Patsy sadder than having killed two people (which she can't remember; she was in one of her many blackouts) is the idea of giving up drinking—the whole, murky, golden party of it. But she goes to the meetings. Her visitors are few, except for the wildly handsome Brice, who turns out to be a loyal friend. When she gets out—fragile, changed and sober—she falls in love with Cal, an impressive older man she meets at an AA meeting. Eventually, Patsy marries him, maybe because she craves security and meaning, maybe because she has a desperate need to atone for what she's done—to be good. She and Cal buy a large family home, suitable for taking in down-and-out drunks and sundry relatives who find themselves in trouble. Patsy succeeds; she does good in the world. But then Patsy learns the truth about the crime she has spent her life atoning for. And since years have passed, the handsome, wise, compassionate Cal has turned into a very old man. Patsy has had one family (her own), then the AA group, but now, maybe, another whole family is in order. How do you build lasting relationships when the world insists on crumbling around you? That's Huneven's theme here, and she does a lovely job with it."—Carolyn See, The Washington Post

"Huneven makes Patsys story unfold like a thriller, creating a sense of urgency and mystery even about everyday matters . . . The novel is firmly rooted in the moral ambiguities of addiction and recovery, probing responsibility, guilt and exoneration with a philosophical elegance. Hunevens prose moves like a hummingbird, in small bursts that are improbably fast and graceful."—Maria Russo, The New York Times Book Review

"A coming-of-age book, [Blame] explores not the short spring from adolescence into early adulthood, but the patchy, winding path to maturity of a woman who is 29 when the two-decade-long story begins. A social novel, it captures the climate of the times, while probing bedrock questions: how to be good, how to atone for egregious wrongdoing.  And it is a literary novel, with nimble prose, fully developed characters and emotion achieved not on the cheap but through an unsentimental, unblinking outlook . . . In describing AA meetings and therapy sessions, Huneven risks devolving into platitudes. But she doesnt go that far, relying instead on her intelligence, her nuanced view of the world and her honesty. The novelist also doesnt use quotation marks for dialogue, which gives her prose a dreamlike, luminous depth . . . An earth-shattering plot development, as anticipated as it is surprising, arrives late in the novel, and Patsy must rethink everything. As the old saying goes, theres always plenty of blame to go around, and blame here is parsed with exquisite nuance. Blame is finally a novel of agency and autonomy as well as atonement . . . Smart observations, generously realized characters (both central and secondary), and resonant details."—Jeffrey Ann Goudie, The Kansas City Star

“Full of an astonishing sense of the beauty of the world, the inestimable complexity of moral consequences, and the bright pleasures of Hunevens prose. Read it.”—Roxana Robinson, author of Cost

“In Blame, a guilty protagonist strives for the good and achieves the beautiful—and, eventually, the truth. Hunevens supple, world-loving prose elevates small gestures into redemptive acts and everyday objects into restorative gifts, rewarding the reader on every page.”—Janet Fitch, author of White Oleander and Paint It Black

"Huneven's elegant third novel probes some deep questions: What does it mean to be good? Is it possible to atone for terrible transgressions? If so, how? Patsy is an intelligent, honest heroine, and her guilt and pain are palpable. Huneven skillfully leads Patsy on the long and winding road to self-discovery and maturity over the course of 20 years, and critics praised Huneven's supple prose and nuanced view of the world . . . Blame is a sensitive and insightful novel of recovery and redemption."—BookMarks magazine

"Huneven tracks a 20-year-old burden of guilt with supple technique. Alcoholism and integrity drive her novel, which is narrated with flashes of irony, appealing warmth and dry judgment . . . Grace, insight and seemingly effortless narration distract from the odd pacing and sometimes meandering progress of this empathetic tale."—Kirkus Reviews

“Huneven turns complicated moral issues into utterly riveting reading in this beautifully written story of remorse and redemption.”—Joanne Wilkinson, Booklist (starred review)

"Patsy's sober life is carefully unfurled—new connections forged, old relationships changed, a constant background of remorse and shame."—Laurie A. Cavanaugh, Brockton Public Library, Massachusetts, Library Journal 

"Brilliant observations, excellent characters, spiffy dialogue and a clever plot keep readers hooked, and the final twist turns Patsy's new life on its ear. Huneven's exploration of misdeeds real and imagined is humane, insightful and beautiful."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“This book is a pleasure, on every level.”—Sue Miler, Bookforum

Review:

"In this gripping tale, Huneven charts the parameters of guilt and how a young, wisecracking intellectual becomes a shadow of her former self. Patsy MacLemoore, a boozy history professor, is helping her boyfriend, Brice, take care of his niece, Joey, whose mother is undergoing cancer treatment. But when Patsy goes on a bender and emerges from a drunken blackout in jail, she learns she's accused of having run down a mother and daughter in her driveway. After her conviction, Patsy transforms from free spirit into a convict, and Huneven deftly underscores the bizarre trajectory Patsy's life has taken. In a prison AA group, Patsy seeks redemption and meaning; she also develops a relationship with the man whose wife and daughter she killed and helps put his son through school, stays the course after her release and maintains a friendship with Brice and Joey. Brilliant observations, excellent characters, spiffy dialogue and a clever plot keep readers hooked, and the final twist turns Patsy's new life on its ear. Huneven's exploration of misdeeds real and imagined is humane, insightful and beautiful. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Synopsis:

Huneven's third book is a spellbinding novel of guilt and love, family and shame, sobriety and the lack of it, and the moral ambiguities that ensnare us all.

Synopsis:

For fans of Liane Moriarty and Sarah Pekkanen, a light-hearted yet heartfelt novel exploring what happens when two women love the same man—and then he dies.

Synopsis:

While walking home from work one evening, Jeff Manning is struck by a car and killed. Not one but two women fall to pieces at the news: his wife, Claire, and his co-worker Tish. Reeling from her loss, Claire must comfort her grieving son and contend with funeral arrangements, well-meaning family members, and the arrival of Jeff's estranged brother, her ex-boyfriend Tim. With Tish's co-workers in the dark about her friendship with Jeff outside of the office, she volunteers to attend the funeral on the company's behalf, but only she knows the true risk of inserting herself into the wreckage of Jeff's life. Told through the three voices of Jeff, Tish, and Claire, Hidden explores the complexity of relationships, the repercussions of our personal choices, and the responsibilities we have to the ones we love.

Synopsis:

FINALIST FOR THE NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD

FINALIST FOR THE LOS ANGELES TIMES BOOK PRIZE

CHICAGO TRIBUNE FAVORITE FICTION OF THE YEAR

O, THE OPRAH MAGAZINE TEN TERRIFIC READS OF THE YEAR

A WASHINGTON POST BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR

A KANSAS CITY STAR 100 BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR

Patsy MacLemoore, a twenty-eight-year-old history professor with a brand-new Ph.D. and a wild streak, wakes up in jail—yet again—after another epic alcoholic blackout. This time, though, a mother and daughter are dead, run over in Patsys driveway. Patsy will the next decades of her life atoning for this unpardonable act. She goes to prison, sobers up, marries a much older man she meets in AA, and makes ongoing amends to her victims' family. Then, another piece of news turns up, casting her crime, and her life, in a different and unexpected light. Brilliant, morally complex, and often funny, Blame is a breathtaking story of contrition and what it takes to rebuild a life from the bottom up.

About the Author

Michelle Huneven is the author of two previous novels, Round Rock and Jamesland. She has received a General Electric Foundation Award for Younger Writers and a Whiting Writers Award for fiction. She lives in Altadena, California.

Product Details

ISBN:
9780374114305
Author:
Huneven, Michelle
Publisher:
New Harvest
Author:
Mckenzie, Catherine
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Psychological fiction
Subject:
Traffic accidents
Subject:
General
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Subject:
General Fiction
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
20140401
Binding:
Paperback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
304
Dimensions:
9 x 6 in 1.06 lb

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

Blame Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$5.95 In Stock
Product details 304 pages Farrar Straus Giroux - English 9780374114305 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "In this gripping tale, Huneven charts the parameters of guilt and how a young, wisecracking intellectual becomes a shadow of her former self. Patsy MacLemoore, a boozy history professor, is helping her boyfriend, Brice, take care of his niece, Joey, whose mother is undergoing cancer treatment. But when Patsy goes on a bender and emerges from a drunken blackout in jail, she learns she's accused of having run down a mother and daughter in her driveway. After her conviction, Patsy transforms from free spirit into a convict, and Huneven deftly underscores the bizarre trajectory Patsy's life has taken. In a prison AA group, Patsy seeks redemption and meaning; she also develops a relationship with the man whose wife and daughter she killed and helps put his son through school, stays the course after her release and maintains a friendship with Brice and Joey. Brilliant observations, excellent characters, spiffy dialogue and a clever plot keep readers hooked, and the final twist turns Patsy's new life on its ear. Huneven's exploration of misdeeds real and imagined is humane, insightful and beautiful. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Synopsis" by , Huneven's third book is a spellbinding novel of guilt and love, family and shame, sobriety and the lack of it, and the moral ambiguities that ensnare us all.
"Synopsis" by , For fans of Liane Moriarty and Sarah Pekkanen, a light-hearted yet heartfelt novel exploring what happens when two women love the same man—and then he dies.
"Synopsis" by ,
While walking home from work one evening, Jeff Manning is struck by a car and killed. Not one but two women fall to pieces at the news: his wife, Claire, and his co-worker Tish. Reeling from her loss, Claire must comfort her grieving son and contend with funeral arrangements, well-meaning family members, and the arrival of Jeff's estranged brother, her ex-boyfriend Tim. With Tish's co-workers in the dark about her friendship with Jeff outside of the office, she volunteers to attend the funeral on the company's behalf, but only she knows the true risk of inserting herself into the wreckage of Jeff's life. Told through the three voices of Jeff, Tish, and Claire, Hidden explores the complexity of relationships, the repercussions of our personal choices, and the responsibilities we have to the ones we love.
"Synopsis" by ,

FINALIST FOR THE NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD

FINALIST FOR THE LOS ANGELES TIMES BOOK PRIZE

CHICAGO TRIBUNE FAVORITE FICTION OF THE YEAR

O, THE OPRAH MAGAZINE TEN TERRIFIC READS OF THE YEAR

A WASHINGTON POST BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR

A KANSAS CITY STAR 100 BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR

Patsy MacLemoore, a twenty-eight-year-old history professor with a brand-new Ph.D. and a wild streak, wakes up in jail—yet again—after another epic alcoholic blackout. This time, though, a mother and daughter are dead, run over in Patsys driveway. Patsy will the next decades of her life atoning for this unpardonable act. She goes to prison, sobers up, marries a much older man she meets in AA, and makes ongoing amends to her victims' family. Then, another piece of news turns up, casting her crime, and her life, in a different and unexpected light. Brilliant, morally complex, and often funny, Blame is a breathtaking story of contrition and what it takes to rebuild a life from the bottom up.

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