Book Diary: May We Be Forgiven (A. M. Homes)

I’m amazed at how there is always something to be found and to be had in a book, which makes me really unsurprised that soon GPs are going to start prescribing novels.

For example, I didn’t know when I started reading May We Be Forgiven, how I was going to feel when I finished it.  I don’t mean about the book itself, I mean that I didn’t know from the point of starting it, to the point of finishing, what might happen in between.

May We?

What did happen, between first starting this novel about fractured families and finishing it half an hour ago, is that my sister and her husband decided to get a divorce, which is to say my sister left, and he was left.  I have never been particularly close to my brother-in-law, however, I could barely stop crying for four days, imagining his confusion and vulnerability, his bewilderment and hurt, his fear and utter desperation – I couldn’t bear it.  Whether this sorrow was for him, or for me, or for everyone, I don’t really know, but I was very grateful to be reading what I just happened to be reading at the time.

May We Be Forgiven starts with the line: “Do you want my recipe for disaster?”  It gave me a recipe for healing.  Do you want it?  Well here it is anyway:

In the long-term: courage, then hope, then knowledge.

In the words of A. C. Grayling: “ordinary human nature is full of surprisingly deep courage, not least of the kind that makes hope and return to happiness possible.”

And Giraudoux: “Sadness flies on the wings of the morning; out of the heart of darkness comes the light.”

Back to A. C. Grayling: Sorrow is said to be one of the profoundest teachers of wisdom. No personal history is free from sorrow, that is a fact intrinsic to the social nature of our kind.  To be related to others, whether through family ties, or in love or friendship, is to invite the possibility of loss, and therefore the likelihood of sorrow.  Epictetus said that although sorrows come from without, our reception of them is to some degree under our own command, enough to make it possible for us first to bear and then to master them, acquiring from them more insight into the human condition, and more sympathy for others, than we had before that mastery was complete.  That is sorrow’s gift, though we never covet it.

In the short-term: things to do, matters to arrange, holidays and others.


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