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A Thousand Pardons: A Novel Hardcover – March 12, 2013

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

A Pulitzer Prize finalist for The Privileges (2010), Dee is adept at meshing the complexities of marriage and family life with the paradoxes of the zeitgeist. In his sixth meticulously lathed and magnetizing novel, he riffs on the practice of crisis management, beginning with the abrupt end to the seemingly happy home of lawyer Ben, housewife Helen, and their 14-year-old adopted Chinese daughter, Sara. After Ben’s scandalous self-destruction, Helen heads resolutely into Manhattan and manages to get a job at a shabby little public-relations agency. There she convinces clients desperate to repair their public image to apologize for their bad behavior and ask for forgiveness, a radical approach in a field dedicated to deception. When she tries to help movie megastar Hamilton, with whom she grew up and who is now facing the abyss, everything comes to a boil. In this cunning novel of selfishness, despair, and second chances, Dee nets the absurdities of a society geared to communicate in a thousand electronic modes while those closest to each other can barely make eye connect. --Donna Seaman

From Bookforum

Whether Dee intended his plot turns to read as fantastical or not, they often feel rushed and un-thought-through. His awkward mix of narrative strategies—realistic on the surface, fantastical beneath—is the worst of both worlds, and ultimately bears only a passing resemblance to the one we actually live in. —David Haglund

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1st edition (March 12, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812993217
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812993219
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (112 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #785,458 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jonathan Dee is the author of four novels, most recently Palladio. He is a staff writer for The New York Times Magazine, a frequent contributor to Harper's, and a former senior editor of The Paris Review. He teaches in the graduate writing programmes at Columbia University and The New School.

Customer Reviews

Jonathan Dee is a very talented writer.
One minute I would think I liked the book and the next minute I would be wondering if the chapter would ever end.
I felt the characters had little depth and the story really made very little sense.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Susan Tunis TOP 1000 REVIEWER on December 26, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
As Jonathan Dee's latest novel opens, readers get to witness suburban New Yorkers Ben and Helen Armstead give up the ghost on couples counseling. Their marriage is at an impasse when successful lawyer Ben goes off the rails. Staggeringly bad judgment causes both his marriage and his career to implode. His very freedom is jeopardized. And now forty-something housewife Helen must care for their adolescent daughter and find a new path for their lives.

In a somewhat unrealistic turn of events, Helen finds her professional calling. The thing is, realism isn't everything. I was willing to give Dee a pass on some of the finer plot points, because I was entertained and invested in the tale being told. Husband Ben, stays on the periphery of the narrative, but there's a third character, a childhood friend of Helen's who has achieved great fame. This reader was just waiting for him to make an appearance, and of course, eventually he did--though not, perhaps, exactly as I expected him to.

This was my first experience reading Mr. Dee, but I certainly heard the buzz on his last novel, The Privileges, and am aware of his literary reputation. Therefore, I think I was a bit surprised by the simplicity of this novel. The prose is highly readable, but neither remarkable nor overly ornate. Characters were well-drawn and sympathetic (surprisingly so in many cases), but it's a fairly brief redemption tale being told. It's just not that deep. I point this out not as a fault; it simply is what it is. And A Thousand Pardons succeeds quite well on that level. This was a quick, entertaining read that I enjoyed more for the story being told than anything else. It moved quickly and I read the book in no time flat.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Yours Truly VINE VOICE on January 10, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Jonathan Dee makes an interesting point in this novel: an honest, unequivocal apology followed up by changed actions is the best, but often rarest, response to public misbehavior, personal or institutional. He also has some interesting observations about race, adoption, marriage counseling and rehab.

That said, I was disappointed this novel, primarily by its wandering point of view and confused character development. After her husband, Ben, a depressed attorney, acts out sexually with an intern at his law firm and caps the night off with a drunk driving arrest, an angry Helen Armstead finds a job in Manhattan and moves with their adopted Chinese daughter Sara away from the distant northern suburb where they've lived. Miraculously, Helen, whose only work experience is as a sales clerk, lands a vice presidency in a penny-ante PR firm. After the owner gets knocked off in a car accident, Helen gets hired by a big time corporate firm by the CEO who's been watching her work with admiration from afar. I was two thirds into the book before I figured out that the supposed explanation for Helen's character was a Catholic education in a small town where she had a crush on someone who became a big-time movie star. Once in the city, Helen reconnects with this alcoholic narcissist and enlists herself in an effort to save him from himself at great peril to her own budding career. No sex, though. All this leads, magically, with a reconstitution of her old suburban life. Nevermind Catholic devotion to work you've been well paid to perform. It's Ben who's humbled now, so maybe the story is supposed to be about him. I don't know.

The character I found most interesting was Sara, whose adolescent confusion is complicated by her ancestry and the clueless behavior of the people who brought her here.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Sunday VINE VOICE on April 21, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
In a letter included with the ARC of A Thousand Pardons: A Novel, an editor at Random House describes the "opening scene" of this book as "extraordinary!" I guess I was probably a fourth of the way through the book before it dawned on me that the opening scene was probably long over. What exactly was extraordinary? It was a puzzle. Actually, the whole book is a bit of a puzzle. I'm not sure if it's simply like an alcoholic's fantasy story, or if the writer is pointing out that the story he has written is ludicrous.

Helen, the wronged wife, reacts to the disintegration of her married life in an admirable, strong-willed manner; yet, almost everything that happens in her life after that point seems totally unreal. She hasn't worked since adopting her 14-year-old daughter, but then instantly finds a job in New York with a small PR company. She turns out to be incredibly good at what she does, but then the owner dies very soon after she`s hired, and she has to take over the company. The story goes on and one with such make-believe stuff. The most amusing fantasy is that Helen solves all of her client's problems, who are usually men, by convincing them to tell the truth and then ask for forgiveness. This leads to everyone involved in all of the situations apparently living happily ever after . . . until the next moral crime and the next needed pardon? The same thing eventually happens in her own personal life. (Is the author joking or mocking or what?) As a main character in a book, Helen is basically a very superficial, unbelievable character. Yet, in that Random House letter it states that it's Helen who "powers the novel".
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