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Jonathan Dee is one of those rare authors who can effortlessly combine an engrossing, page-turning pace together with thoughtful, nuanced insight into his characters. It’s no exaggeration to say that I voraciously devoured his most recent novel, A Thousand Pardons. Dee is also insanely skillful at writing about timely issues and ideas without neglecting deeper themes.
A Thousand Pardons begins like so many press conferences we’ve seen of late. A powerful person behaves badly, is discovered, and then airs his apologies publically for all to judge. Ben Armstead and his family are spared the press conference, but his failures are very public, nonetheless. Damage control comes in the form of rehab for Ben, while his wife Helen discovers that she has a special skill in crisis management, specifically in eliciting powerful men to apologize for their wrongs. Despite Helen’s ability to wrangle apologies from others, she finds offering forgiveness to Ben much more difficult.
Much like Dee’s Pulitzer-finalist, The Privileges, A Thousand Pardons has an emotional intensity that will sneak up on you. One minute you’re reading a wry, gossipy and satirical novel; the next you’re experiencing a deeply moving scene between a teenage daughter and her father—a scene all too raw and too human. Dee’s latest is a darkly humorous and deeply moving exploration of the work of forgiveness, what comes after the confessional and before reconciliation.