A Thousand Pardons: Book summary and reviews of A Thousand Pardons by Jonathan Dee

A Thousand Pardons

by Jonathan Dee

A Thousand Pardons
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  • Published in USA  Feb 2013
    224 pages
    Genre: Novels

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Book Summary

For readers of Jonathan Franzen and Richard Russo, Jonathan Dee's novels are masterful works of literary fiction. In this sharply observed tale of self-invention and public scandal, Dee raises a trenchant question: what do we really want when we ask for forgiveness?

Once a privileged and loving couple, the Armsteads have now reached a breaking point. Ben, a partner in a prestigious law firm, has become unpredictable at work and withdrawn at home - a change that weighs heavily on his wife, Helen, and their preteen daughter, Sara. Then, in one afternoon, Ben's recklessness takes an alarming turn, and everything the Armsteads have built together unravels, swiftly and spectacularly.

Thrust back into the working world, Helen finds a job in public relations and relocates with Sara from their home in upstate New York to an apartment in Manhattan. There, Helen discovers she has a rare gift, indispensable in the world of image control: She can convince arrogant men to admit their mistakes, spinning crises into second chances. Yet redemption is more easily granted in her professional life than in her personal one.

As she is confronted with the biggest case of her career, the fallout from her marriage, and Sara's increasingly distant behavior, Helen must face the limits of accountability and her own capacity for forgiveness.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. With his sixth novel, Pulitzer finalist Dee has written a page turner without sacrificing a smidgen of psychological insight. What a triumph." - Kirkus

"In this cunning novel of selfishness, despair, and second chances, Dee nets the absurdities of a society geared to communicate in athousand electronic modes while those closest to each other can barely make eye connect." - Booklist

"A number of problems plague this novel: the thin Hamilton is ultimately inconsequential to the book, as is the romance between Sara and a black classmate discovering identity politics. Worse is Helen's transformation from housewife to PR genius, which happens in a blink and is given no support. "She could see he was coming around, just like they always did," she thinks while meeting with an early client. These flaws are a pity because Dee shines when unveiling the inner workings of the PR industry, which is at once ubiquitous and obscure. When the author focuses on the ways in which public opinion is routinely manipulated, he gives a tantalizing glimpse at what might have been." - Publishers Weekly

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Reader Reviews

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Katherine S. (Seaford, VA)

The Gift of Forgiveness
This is a believable, tightly written book about painful mistakes made by likeable characters. Ben & Helen's marriage and life dissolves in slow motion after a death spiral by Ben. Their teen daughter is collateral damage, but somehow there is hope through forgiveness. A Thousand Pardons is a jewel of affection and redemption.

Kristina C. (Santa Barbara, CA)

A Thousand Pardons by Jonathan Dee
I was engrossed in this book and the characters from paragraph one, not only because the characters were so authentic, but because the author so adeptly guides us through this compelling story, while masterfully exploring his themes. This book explores the public and private "stories" we construct of ourselves and the rebuilding of them after the deceptions have been shattered. Its about redemptive possibilities. I want more from Jonathan Dee!

Molinda C. (Suffolk, VA)

Page Turner
I was hooked from the opening pages of Jonathan Dee's "A Thousand Pardons". I could not put the book down and completed it the day that I started. It is a story about a family that falls apart and then some how puts things back together--but there is so much more. The character development is phenomenal and the story keeps moving forward, bringing you right along with it. This would be a great one for book clubs.

Marjorie H. (Woodstock, GA)

A Surprise!
Yes, Jonathan Dee surprised me! He took a very ordinary theme - failed mid-life marriage with smart mouth daughter - and turned it on its head! A marvelously written book with depth of characters, I thought perhaps I had stumbled upon another ho-hum upstate New York couple coping with disappointment, boredom . . . . . . and then he turns the tables by introducing the character that ends up holding it all together! It was a complete "AH-HA" ending. I loved it! Don't miss this one. You won't be disappointed!

Laurie H. (Stuart, FL)

A Thousand Pardons=A Great Read
Well written and thought provoking, A Thousand Pardons is a great read. I enjoyed it on my back patio with a nice pot of coffee. This book would make a great book club selection, I'd enjoy others take on it. What happens when we expose our real selves?? Is it inevitable and the only way for us to grow?? Enjoy this book in your own special reading area.

Joan V. (Miller Place, NY)

No apologies necessary!
An excellent book one of the most enjoyable I've read in a long time. Jonathan Dee draws you in immediately and you really care about the characters and what happens to them. The plot is not predictable, the characters are believable and well drawn.

I loved the lead character Helen. She is forced by her husband's actions to become an independent woman and we root for her to succeed. Mr. Dee does not make her a clich├ęd character as he could easily have done. He also gives an interesting inside view of the world of PR.

There is enough substance for it to be a good choice for a book club. I am definitely recommending it to friends and now want to read more of Mr. Dee's work.

...30 more reader reviews

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More Information

More Information

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 programs at Columbia University and the New School.

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