35 pages • 1 hour readMary Beth Keane
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The emotional terrorism and real violence people can visit on each other, particularly on those they love, is the theme that drives the novel’s narrative. Although the most heinous example is Anne’s brutal shooting of Francis, each character causes pain to those closest to them. Characters routinely lie to each other, they cheat on their lovers and spouses, they hold grudges for years, they judge others, they gossip carelessly, and they manipulate the emotions of those who trust them. When their actions exceed their abilities to handle the implications, they turn to the easy escape of denial or the refuge of alcohol. The only balm for such negative behavior is forgiveness.
Keane’s narrative argues that people are better than the pain they inflict. It’s impossible to repair the damage when wrong is done, no matter how much people live in a prison of regrets. Only forgiveness releases both offender and offended from the burden. The concept is not bound to any religion or to any theology; it’s an act of the heart, achievable by saint and sinner alike. Francis’s grueling physical rehabilitation takes 20 years. His emotional rehabilitation, in the gesture of understanding he extends to Anne in the closing pages, takes mere moments.
By Mary Beth Keane