Friday, May 1, 2015

Sweet Forgiveness

Title:  Sweet Forgiveness
Author:  Lori Nelson Spielman
Publication Information:  Plume. 2015. 368 pages.
ISBN:  0147516765 / 978-0147516763

Book Source:  I received this book through the Penguin First to Read program free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "It went on for one hundred sixty-three days."

Favorite Quote:  "I've always imagined that life is a cavernous room filled with candles ... When we're born, half the candles are lit. With each good deed we do, another flickers to life, creating a bit more light ... But along the way, some flames are extinguished by selfishness and cruelty. So, you see, we light some candles, we blow some out. In the end, we can only hope that we've created more light in this world than darkness."

Should some secrets be left secrets? Can relationships survive the telling of a long buried secret? Can forgiveness heal both the giver and the receiver? When is an apology not enough? These questions form the basis of Sweet Forgiveness.

Hannah Farr is a talk show host in New Orleans. She is estranged from her mother, in a relationship with a self-serving politician, and in a ratings slump. Out of the blue, she receives a recruiting email asking her to pitch a show idea. She creates an idea that is part fact and part fiction, all based on the "forgiveness stones" that are becoming popular. Fiona Knowles is the creator of the forgiveness stones. Hannah is one of the original recipients because Fiona and Hannah knew each other in middle school.

The premise of the stones is that you send two stones to someone who you have wronged in the past. You acknowledge the hurt you caused and offer an apology. If the recipient accepts, he or she sends a stone back to you and then sends the other to someone from whom he/she seeks forgiveness. And so on. The cycle continues, creating a ever widening circle of forgiveness. Sort of a chain letter of forgiveness, if you will.

Hannah starts on this journey as a story idea for a show; it leads her down a path to her own past. Her parents divorced when Hannah was in middle school. Things happened or were said to happen; it led to Hannah losing all contact with her mother. She left town with her father as her mother started a new life with her boyfriend. Now, being forced to look back, Hannah wonders if everything really was as she has always believed. Along the way, Hannah's journey has some back-stabbing, some friendship, decisions both good and bad, and even a love story.

Hannah's story overlaps with the stories of those around her - the people in her life, like every single one of us, has things we need to be forgiven for and things we need to forgive. In seeking and giving forgiveness, the characters in the book take on some very serious issues - lying, cheating, bullying, abandonment, and child abuse. Although the book acknowledges that "sometimes 'I'm sorry' isn't enough", the conflicts seems to resolve themselves. All is not forgotten, but it is forgiven.

Unfortunately, about three quarters of the way through the book, the story veers into a different direction, introducing new characters, odd associations between characters, and a unsatisfactory resolution to one act of forgiveness. Without a spoiler, I can say that it touches on an extremely serious issue but then takes it nowhere other than "forgive and move on." Such a cursory treatment of such a universally-acknowledged, serious offense ends the book on a negative note. It ends the book with thoughts more about the act requiring forgiveness rather than the act of forgiveness.

Love the premise. Love the reminder of what the willingness to forgive can bring the forgiver. Like the fact that the book is a quick and easy read. Wish it had ended differently.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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