Wasn't sure about the first few chapters of 'May We Be Forgiven' by A.M. Homes. Sounded like the type of complicated family relationship stories I don't like. It seemed kinda heavy for vacation reading. Oh well, it was a rainy afternoon in Lijiang and I didn't feel like getting muddy.
There's a family murder and an unbelievable number of colossal human blunders and errors that are attractive. The author is known for her genre of suburban goth. (Reviews here, here, and here)
Protagonist Professor of 'Nixonology' Harold 'Harry' Silver had an affair with his television executive brother George's wife, Jane. George found out, killed his wife and was put in mental institutions. Harry's wife divorced him. He then took over the running and administration of George's house, dog, cat, children Nate and Ashley and all their teenage angst. There were boarding school duties, a bar mitzvah in South Africa in the end taking on more responsibilities than when he first started out. Read like episodes in a kooky television series.
I meet with Hiram P. Moody, to discuss the cash flow—he seems to think it's not a problem. "Families are like little countries," he says. "It's an ecosystem, an ebb and flow. Between the money coming in for rent for Cy and Madeline's house, their Social Security checks, and income from investments—they're fine. With regard to Ashley and Ricardo, you function like a human cash machine, but between Jane's life-insurance coverage, George's severance from the network, their previous investments, and the settlement from Ashley's school—you're more than fortunate."
I try to live within my means; they're limited, but I have the benefit of George's full wardrobe, and when my insurance runs out, I pick up a freelancers' health policy, and beyond that my wants and needs are few.
I keep track of all the money in dedicated notebooks—one for each child, one for Cy and Madeline, and another for the household and one for myself—carefully noting each expense and from what source it was paid. Not only does it give me something to do, it protects me from a nagging fear of being accused of mismanagement.
It's less a commentary about suburban lifestyle of emptiness than an ironic comment on familial relationships. More than once, there're references to novelist John Cheever who writes short stories of American suburbia and the duality of human nature, By the time it came to Thanksgiving a year later, those present at the table were a motley crew of humans he randomly adopted. It's like a whole new family he has built from the ruins of the year past. It was quite a ride.
In the living room, the television is on—the movie Mighty Joe Young is playing, and I ask Nate to turn it off, and he does. I am surveying the situation, comforted that I can actually feel pleased. In fact, I notice that I feel nothing except benevolence—free-floating good will.
It is Thanksgiving and I do not fear the other shoe falling; actually, I am not even wearing shoes. There is a distinct absence of tension, of worry that something might explode, erupt, or otherwise go wrong. I note the absence of worry and the sense that in the past that absence of anxiety would have caused me to panic, but now it is something I simply notice and then let go—carrying on.