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Blame: A Novel Hardcover – September 1, 2009

3.6 out of 5 stars 146 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In this gripping tale, Huneven charts the parameters of guilt and how a young, wisecracking intellectual becomes a shadow of her former self. Patsy MacLemoore, a boozy history professor, is helping her boyfriend, Brice, take care of his niece, Joey, whose mother is undergoing cancer treatment. But when Patsy goes on a bender and emerges from a drunken blackout in jail, she learns she's accused of having run down a mother and daughter in her driveway. After her conviction, Patsy transforms from free spirit into a convict, and Huneven deftly underscores the bizarre trajectory Patsy's life has taken. In a prison AA group, Patsy seeks redemption and meaning; she also develops a relationship with the man whose wife and daughter she killed and helps put his son through school, stays the course after her release and maintains a friendship with Brice and Joey. Brilliant observations, excellent characters, spiffy dialogue and a clever plot keep readers hooked, and the final twist turns Patsy's new life on its ear. Huneven's exploration of misdeeds real and imagined is humane, insightful and beautiful. (Sept.)
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From Bookmarks Magazine

Huneven's elegant third novel probes some deep questions: What does it mean to be good? Is it possible to atone for terrible transgressions? If so, how? Patsy is an intelligent, honest heroine, and her guilt and pain are palpable. Huneven skillfully leads Patsy on the long and winding road to self-discovery and maturity over the course of 20 years, and critics praised Huneven's supple prose and nuanced view of the world. The only debate arose from her unconventional dialogue. The Kansas City Star thought the lack of quotation marks and attributions gave her prose a "dreamlike, luminous depth," while other critics found it confusing. These reservations aside, Blame is a sensitive and insightful novel of recovery and redemption.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Sarah Crichton Books (September 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374114307
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374114305
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (146 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,087,804 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Michelle Huneven was born in Altadena, California. She received an M.F.A. at the Iowa Writer's Workshop. For many years her "day job" was reviewing restaurants and writing about food for the Los Angeles Times, the LA Weekly, Gourmet and other publications. Her first novel, Round Rock (Knopf 1997), was a New York Times notable book and a finalist for the LA Times First Fiction Award. Her second novel, Jamesland (Knopf 2003) was also a New York Times notable book, a finalist for the LA Times Fiction Prize, and a winner of the Southern California Bookseller's Award for Fiction. Her third novel, Blame, (Sarah Crichton Books, FSG, 2009), was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.
Michelle has also received a GE Younger Writers Award and a Whiting Award for Fiction. She presently teaches creative writing at UCLA and lives with her husband, dog, cat, and African Grey parrot in the town where she was born.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Brief summary and review, no spoilers:

Patsy MacLemoore is a professor of history at a small college near Pasadena. She is also an alcoholic, who has suffered several blackouts. One morning she wakes up in jail with a bad hangover and having no idea what happened to get her there. She thinks it's probably something minor since she's woke up in jail like this before. But this time it's much more serious - 2 people, a young mother and her daughter were run over and killed.

This book is divided into sections by year. We start off in 1980 just one year before this accident, and this novel moves us forward over two decades. During this time we follow Patsy as her life takes this sudden plunge, and as she tries to make amends for what she did.

There were many things to love about this novel. I thought the dialogue and characterization were spot on, and I was completely pulled into the story. The locale is mainly Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, and I am very familiar with both places and thought their descriptions were accurate and I could just picture them all.

There was also an epic feel to it as we travel the years with Patsy. We age along with her and we share in her traumas. When I turned the last page of this story I felt like I had been through an experience - I needed to think about this book before I could pick up anything else.

I think this book would appeal to a lot of people. We relive the AIDS crisis and we learn about the criminal justice system, AA, and what it's like to be in prison. We see (and experience) how life can turn on a dime, and how our lives can take strange trajectories away from our best laid plans. This book is about forgiving and atonement, in the truest sense of both those words.
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Format: Hardcover
This is the first novel I have read from Huneven and I loved it. Her beautiful and poetic description of both places and feelings made me long for her talent. I loved the way she portrayed the passage of time. Yes, the book is broken down into sections marked by dates but instead of this feeling like some big announcement of the next part of the story, it did not interfere at all. Time going by felt the same as it would in life. Early on in the story we meet the main character Patsy as a young woman with a serious problem. If this was to be the last time she appeared, I doubt she would have been liked by many readers even though her addictions were apparent. The Patsy we get to know over the course of the book is one of the finest characters I have ever read. We learn how decent a person she really is and just how insidious a monster her addiction was.

There is a twist at the end and like many readers, I had it figured out beforehand. There is a scene that takes place at the end in a Shell station bathroom that was the perfect metaphor for what it really means to be imprisioned and how we choose to handle the way our lives turn out. Patsy learns this over and over again throughout the story. It seems imprisonment ends up meaning far more than time served in jail. The final scene also caught my eye because of the 3 people present. It was as if Patsy had come full circle in a sense.

This one is definitely worth the time.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
It's another morning in the county drunk tank for Patsy, who is sadly inured to this ritual. She wakes up in her vomit and her filth, with no recall of last night--she experiences frequent blackouts when she drinks. A young, talented, comely, and statuesque college professor, Patsy is nevertheless on a grease skid to oblivion due to untreated alcoholism. This time she is accused of running down and killing a mother and daughter in her driveway, and her life subsequently takes a turn to prison.

The first part of Patsy's story reflects the jacket blurb and marketing for Blame--bracing, taut, suspenseful. The book description even contains an unnecessary, thoughtless spoiler, which doesn't affect my rating of the author's work but does illustrate that the publishers are intent to mislead readers into thinking that it is one kind of book when it is entirely another. The author is a superbly talented writer, i.e. her use of language, the written word, is obviously what earned a sterling endorsement from Richard Russo. Her metaphors and turns of phrase are verdant, fragrant, lyrical. Her characters are sympathetic and genuine. There were no false notes there. Her erudition is in the contemplative, the characterizations.

I adjusted to the temperament of the story, which often meanders and slows down to a staid portraiture of a collection of people. The narration actually reads like a 19th century novel at times, even though 20th century issues were involved. Now, that was unexpected. The author seemed to forgo what she started out to do and then changed course. The fuel-injected thriller morphed into a balmy sea. I went with it, but I want to warn readers--if you are looking for a tight, twisting, adrenaline-pumping thriller, look elsewhere.
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Format: Hardcover
I had high hopes for this book and bought it because it was chosen as a top ten in a list I read about. I thouroughly enjoyed the beginning and found myself engaged. It is strongly written for about the first two-thirds. However, towards the end, when the "twist" was revealed, I felt jipped and unsatisfied. The author sold out and made a good book bad. Blame should be a great book about redemption and forgiveness. However, Patsy is not likeable and I found her gay friend, Gilles, completely unbelievable in his actions and words. Her husband, Cal, bored me as did his family. The more I write about it, I realize I did not like this book and would not recommend it. The ridiculous end just made me feel like I had wasted my time and disengaged me from all the characters because I no longer respected the plot. Don't buy this one. Don't even get it from your local library.
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