Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Just who is to 'Blame,' Huneven's novel asks

Library book sales are a great place to make discoveries. I don't have to tell you that.
At just 50 cents or a dollar, with no due date, these books are hard to resist. And don't even get me started on bag days! Heaven minus the smell of new leather shoes.

And so it was that I discovered Michelle Huneven's "Blame." Though it is her third work and was published in 2009, I was unfamiliar. (I will be keeping my eyes peeled for her "Round Rock" and "Jamesland.")

"Blame" tells the story of Patsy MacLemoore, a young history professor who wakes up hungover and in jail. She's stunned to learn that she's being accused of running over a mother and daughter in her driveway and killing them. Overcome with guilt, despite her lack of recollection, or maybe because of it, Patsy prepares to face the rest of her life in prison.

Over time, she comes to terms with the events of that night, at least as much as she is able. Life on the inside is not all bad for Patsy. She does find sobriety, she does make a difference in the lives of some fellow inmates, and she does gain a new perspective on the world.

As she says when on release for a funeral:
And how badly people behaved out in the free world. They stood and talked right in the entrance to the sanctuary while other people were trying to get inside. They blocked the aisle, called out to each other. They shuffled into pews in no particular order, squeezing past people, making others squeeze past them. They shoved. In prison, you'd get cited.
Haven't you made a similiar observation?

What sets this tale apart is Patsy's relationship with the husband and father of her victims, with her family, with her new husband and his family.

Just when you think she's finally at peace with her past, an unexpected bit of information turns up that raises questions about the events of that night and about just what it means to accept blame for your actions.

Is the only one to blame, the one whose actions directly result in the tragedy? Or do others bear responsibility? What do you think?

Take a listen to Huneven reading an excerpt.

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