Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Review: A Thousand Pardons (Audio)

Summary: Once a privileged and loving couple, the Armsteads have now reached a breaking point. Ben, a partner in a prestigious law firm, has become unpredictable at work and withdrawn at home—a change that weighs heavily on his wife, Helen, and their preteen daughter, Sara. Then, in one afternoon, Ben’s recklessness takes an alarming turn, and everything the Armsteads have built together unravels, swiftly and spectacularly.

Thrust back into the working world, Helen finds a job in public relations and relocates with Sara from their home in upstate New York to an apartment in Manhattan. There, Helen discovers she has a rare gift, indispensable in the world of image control: She can convince arrogant men to admit their mistakes, spinning crises into second chances. Yet redemption is more easily granted in her professional life than in her personal one.

As she is confronted with the biggest case of her career, the fallout from her marriage, and Sara’s increasingly distant behavior, Helen must face the limits of accountability and her own capacity for forgiveness. -- Random House Audio

I always had the intention to read the Pulitzer Prize nominee THE PRIVILEGES by Jonathan Dee, but unfortunately, I never got around to it. You know the saying, "So many book, so little time." Well that's certainly the case for me. However, when I was given the opportunity to review the audio book version of his latest novel A THOUSAND PARDONS, I decided that I could fit that into my reading (and workout) schedule. I knew it wasn't receiving the rave reviews that THE PRIVILEGES had garnered, but I actually thought the story sounded appealing and one that I would enjoy.

A THOUSAND PARDONS tells the story of Helen and Ben, a couple whose marriage is on the brink. They have been attending couples' counseling but telling their teen daughter Sara that they are having date nights. Even with the help of a counselor, it appears that the marriage might not be worth saving. Ben, a lawyer at a prestigious law firm, is spending less time at home while pursing a young intern. When things get out of hand with the intern, Ben finds himself arrested for DUI and facing a major lawsuit. In an effort to protect himself he voluntarily enters rehab, but Helen has had enough -- she wants a divorce.

The novel then follows Helen as she tries to reenter the workforce after being a stay-at-home mom. She ends up getting a job at a crisis management PR firm and finds that she has a talent for controlling the fallout from various crises. She makes them apologize right off the bat -- isn't that refreshing? Helen and her daughter move to New York and start their new lives.

In the meantime, Ben completes his stint at rehab and is making the transition back into society. He has basically lost everything -- his house, his family and his career; however, he's not quite ready to give up. He keeps in contact with his daughter Sara who is also trying to adjust to her new school and new relationships.

I have to say that I really enjoyed the novel up to this point. I appreciated seeing how this family came apart and then tried to "find themselves" again in entirely new circumstances. I'm not entirely sure I'd say that I loved the characters, but I was very interested in seeing how their lives played out. Furthermore, I was impressed with how well the author developed the characters and the dynamics of their relationships.

And then the story kind of changed direction and I found myself not quite liking it as much as when it focused on Ben, Helen and Sara. A famous actor, one that Helen knew from her childhood, finds himself in a bit of a quandary -- he doesn't know what happened to a woman that he picked up in a bar. He fears that he hurt her or perhaps even killed her, and he turns to Helen for help. Helen once again tries to do damage control, but I found that I didn't really care what happened to this actor character. As far as I was concerned, this storyline didn't really add all that much to the novel.

That's not to say that I still didn't enjoy this novel, because I did. All I'm saying is that I don't think the second half of the book was as smart and witty as the first. I found the main parts of A THOUSAND PARDONS -- the ones about family, marriage, and forgiveness -- to be extremely insightful. In fact, I was extremely impressed with Mr. Dee's writing style, and I am pretty sure that I'm going to have to make time to read THE PRIVILEGES.

There is no doubt that A THOUSAND PARDONS would make for an interesting book club pick. I absolutely adored how this novel explored marriage and parenting, and I found that the characters, while flawed, experienced some very real emotions. I wasn't able to find a formal discussion guide, but I can assure you won't need it. Some of the themes you might want to explore include various types of relationships, guilt, love, second chances and especially forgiveness and redemption.

The audio book version of A THOUSAND PARDONS was read by Mark Deakins, and I thought he did a good job. He had to do a variety of male and female characters and I thought he was very believable. You can sample his performance below:

A THOUSAND PARDONS was a well-written novel that did manage to make me think... and laugh. I think fans of Dees' will enjoy it as well as readers who appreciate smart literary fiction.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this audio book.


rhapsodyinbooks said...

That's too bad when a book starts out great and then changes. Usually it's the other way around!

bermudaonion said...

It's always a little jarring when books seem to change directions but this one sounds like it's still worth reading. I have a feeling many stay at home moms would be good at crisis management.

Sandy Nawrot said...

I'm laughing at Kathy's comment! Not this stay at home mom! I'm basically a shoot-from-the-hip kinda woman! Anyway, I'll be real honest...I'm just not sure if I'm level enough to read about all this misery. Families are in ruin all around us, and I don't want to hear about more. So many books focus on this type of thing. Still it is good to know that if the book throws itself at me, it is a generally good read.

Laura at Library of Clean Reads said...

I have seen this book and wondered what it was about. Too bad the second half wasn't as good as the first.

Beth F said...

Drat. I hate it when a book changes directions after I'm already invested. Still, it sounds like a worthwhile listen.

Alyce said...

I thought the author's name looked familiar. I haven't read The Privileges, but I have a copy on my shelf.