Forgive Me: A Novel

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9780345494467: Forgive Me: A Novel

From the acclaimed author of How to Be Lost comes a gorgeous new novel about love, memory, and motherhood.

Nadine Morgan travels the world as a journalist, covering important events, following dangerous leads, and running from anything that might tie her down. Since an assignment in Cape Town ended in tragedy and regret, Nadine has not returned to South Africa, or opened her heart–until she hears the story of Jason Irving.

Jason, an American student, was beaten to death by angry local youths at the height of the apartheid era. Years later, his mother is told that Jason’s killers have applied for amnesty. Jason’s parents pack their bags and fly from Nantucket to Cape Town. Filled with rage, Jason’s mother resolves to fight the murderers’ pleas for forgiveness.

As Nadine follows the Irvings to beautiful, ghost-filled South Africa, she is flooded with memories of a time when the pull toward adventure and intrigue left her with a broken heart. Haunted by guilt and a sense of remorse, and hoping to lose herself in her coverage of the murder trial, Nadine grows closer to Jason’s mother as well as to the mother of one of Jason’s killers–with profound consequences. In a country both foreign and familiar, Nadine is forced to face long-buried demons, come to terms with the missing pieces of her own family past, and learn what it means to truly love and to forgive.

With her dazzling prose and resonant themes, Amanda Eyre Ward has joined the ranks of such beloved American novelists as Anne Tyler and Ann Patchett. Gripping, darkly humorous, and luminous, Forgive Me is an unforgettable story of dreams and longing, betrayal and redemption.

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About the Author:

Amanda Eyre Ward is the award-winning author of How to Be Lost and Sleep Toward Heaven. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her family.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter One
Nadine hears the parrots. So picturesque in the evening, floating over the courtyard while she sips tequila and deciphers the day’s notes, the birds make the hot dawn intolerable. Two thin pillows cannot block the cacophony. Nadine’s sheets press against her body. She remembers the warm lips of a local journalist, but wakes alone. A room at La Hacienda Solita includes breakfast. Slowly, Nadine makes her way to the wooden table outside the kitchen. She orders eggs, beans, coffee, and juice from the girl. The juice arrives in a ceramic glass filled with ice cubes, and Nadine drinks it, though she should not. The girl—no more than ten—stands next to the table, her bare feet callused. She watches Nadine. There is a communal shower. Nadine uses Pert Plus shampoo, bought in an American Rite Aid on her way back over the border: she was in a Laredo police station when the news of the twelve dead boys came in. Nadine travels light: a comb, shampoo, lotion, lipstick. Two T-shirts, two pairs of pants, lace underwear—her one indulgence. She has an apartment in the Associated Press compound in Mexico City, but hasn’t been there in a month. On the dashboard of her rental car, Nadine finds a rubber band. She pulls her black hair back with both hands, affixes the band, and puts on sunglasses. She opens her topographic map. Today, she will find and interview the boys’ families. The mother of one boy told a local TV reporter that her son had worked in a seafood restaurant. Her large, two-story home and expensive clothes told a different story. The car’s air-conditioning is broken. Nadine punches the radio on and begins to drive. Her Spanish is good; languages have always come easily to her. She plays the music loudly and hums along. It’s a song about a man who wronged a woman. “If you come back to me,” the man sings, “I will never stray again.” She thinks of the journalist’s spicy cologne, his breath against her ear as they swayed to jukebox melodies at the cantina. She smiles. It took half a bottle of Herradura and a few kisses to get directions to the boys’ tiny village. Nadine drives slowly down the narrow streets. Men unlock metal doors and heave them upward, exposing bright fruits and vegetables, rows of shirts, videocassettes. Women sweep the sidewalk and children walk to school, holding hands. A donkey cart blocks Nadine’s way, then lurches down a side alley. Finally, she reaches the outskirts. Passing squat homes protected by latticework concrete, Nadine accelerates. The air blazing through her open window is little comfort. She heads toward the mountains. Ian made her promise to wear the bulletproof vest, but Nadine reasons that having it in the backseat is good enough. It’s heavy and bulky, and for Christ’s sake it’s got to be a hundred degrees. Nadine reaches the place she’s marked on her map with an X and pulls off the road. At a gas station, she fills the car and takes out her list of names. The man behind the counter, old and overweight, looks at Nadine without expression. He sells her a warm Coke. When she asks to use the bathroom, the man gestures with his hand. She walks behind the store, positioning her feet on either side of the fetid hole. The village does not have paved roads, and Nadine’s head begins to hurt as she drives over uneven ground. She sees a group of men gathered outside one thatched-roof home. The men stare as Nadine approaches. Nadine slows the car and tries a smile. She is met with stone faces. The thoughts flood her—Something is wrong. You should have told Ian where you were going. You should not have come alone. Back away, put on the vest—but the thoughts will fade. Nadine sets her jaw and keeps driving. The men look at one another, at the approaching Honda. By some consensus, they rush the car, and Nadine tries to stop, to reach the locks. It is too late, but she grabs the gearshift, smoothly putting the car in reverse. As she presses the gas, a tall man wearing a Cookie Monster  T-shirt opens the passenger-side door. His sweat smells metallic as he climbs in the car. He unlocks the driver’s-side door, reaching across Nadine. The door is opened from outside. Two men drag Nadine out of the car and into the street. She fights—clawing at the men with her fingernails, screaming that she is periodista, a journalist. Their fists hit her stomach, and then her rib cage. Two Nadine woke in a blue-and-white hotel room. There was a mini fridge by the bed, a painting of a sailboat on the wall, and a telephone with instructions in English. The window framed a familiar ocean. Nadine closed her eyes, then opened them. Her body ached. Her left arm was bandaged, so she lifted the phone with her right and dialed 0. A woman’s voice answered, saying, “Oh my Lord!” “Hello?” said Nadine. “Where am I?” She heard footsteps on a staircase, and then the door opened. “Oh, honey,” said a stout woman with a mushroom cap of blonde hair. “I’m sorry,” said Nadine. “Who are you?” “Oh dear,” said the woman. “Didn’t your daddy tell you?” Nadine had not spoken to her father in months, maybe a year. “Where am I?” said Nadine. “Why, honey,” said the woman, “you’re at the Sandy Toes Bed and Breakfast.” Nadine touched her temple. The last thing she could remember was a man who smelled like rust. “You’ve been in a terrible accident,” the woman said, putting a fat hand on Nadine’s wrist. “Thank goodness you had your daddy’s card in your wallet.” Nadine stared at the hand. “He’ll be here any minute,” said the woman. “By the way, my name is Gwen.” Nadine did not answer. Gwen bit her lip and then released it, leaving a bright pink spot on her tooth. “Your daddy and I are in love,” she informed Nadine. “Is there room service?” asked Nadine. “What?” “Is there room service,” said Nadine, “at the Sandy Toes Bed and Breakfast?” “Well,” said Gwen, “of course there is.” “I’d like a tequila on the rocks, please.” “It’s the middle of the day, dear,” said Gwen. “A ham sandwich, as well,” said Nadine. Nadine had not seen her father, Jim, since her journalism school graduation a decade before. After the ceremony, Nadine had taken him to the Oyster Bar for dinner. It was her favorite restaurant: dark, smoky, and, to Nadine, glamorous. She ordered oysters and an expensive bottle of wine. “I think you’ll like this,” said Nadine when the waiter began to pour. “I’ll have a Coors,” said Nadine’s father, covering his wineglass with his palm. He looked around at the businessmen and well-heeled New Yorkers. Jim wore jeans, a green windbreaker, a cap that said falmouth fish. “So I’ve decided,” said Nadine. “I’m going to Cape Town.” “Cape Town?” “I’ll be freelancing, of course, but maybe it’ll lead to a job with the AP, or the Times. People are fighting the pass laws, standing up to the government. Remember that kid from Nantucket? Jason Irving? He was killed outside Cape Town last month. Everything is changing in South Africa. There’s so much to write about.” Jim sighed. “That kid from Nantucket,” he said. “Poor kid comes home in a coffin. This is your role model?” “Dad,” said Nadine, leaning toward him, “I could be in South Africa for the fall of apartheid!” “Nadine,” said her father, “for all I know, you’re speaking Chinese.” “Come on, Dad,” said Nadine. “Don’t you get The New York Times? I renewed your subscription, I thought.” “I’m busy, honey,” said Jim. “I get home late. It’s just so much paper.” “So much paper.” The waiter returned with a tray of oysters and horseradish sauce. “Flown in this morning,” he said, “from Buzzards Bay.” He stepped back with a smile and a nod. “If oysters is what you want,” said Jim, “I’ve got a rake and a pair of waders for you in the garage.” Nadine looked down at her napkin. “I wish you could try,”  she said. She swallowed. “It’s not that Woods Hole isn’t great. I just—” “What about working for the Cape Cod Times?” said Jim. “Your mom used to read the Cape Cod Times.” Nadine sighed. She drained her wine and poured another glass. For forty minutes, they talked about housing prices on the Cape, the new pizzeria on Main Street, and the traffic problem at the Bourne Rotary. Declining dessert, Nadine gave her father a quick embrace, walked him to his Midtown hotel, and took the six train downtown. At McSorley’s, she argued passionately about the future of Romania with a grad student who smoked unfiltered cigarettes. They agreed that Ceaus¸escu’s regime was on the verge of collapse, and then pressed against each other in a dim corner, the boy’s tongue hot in Nadine’s mouth. She moved to Cape Town the following week. Ten years later, her father stood before her, his hands in what could have been the same jeans. “Hey, now, Deanie,” he said, reaching out to touch Nadine’s hair. “What am I doing here?” said Nadine. “You were in some Mexican hospital,” said Jim. “You were beaten real bad. Your wrist and ribs got bunged up, you’ve got a nasty concussion.” “How long—” “You’ll be in Woods Hole awhile,” said Jim. “Woods Hole?” said Nadine. Jim put his arm around Gwen. “You can stay here as long as you need. Gwen and I own this hotel. We open for business in May, soon as the summer folks get here.” “...

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