In praise of AM Homes



Great to see AM Homes rewarded with this week’s Women’s Prize (formerly the Orange Prize and soon to be the Bailey’s Women’s Prize). I really recommend this Jeanette Winterson interview with her about her life and work. (Note Winterson calls her “AM” rather than “Amy”. I am intrigued to know if everyone calls her this.)

I have been a massive fan of AM Homes ever since I reviewed This Book Will Save Your Life in 2006. As soon as I read it, I went back and read the back catalogue: The End of Alice (a dark, Lolita-style story that goes to the heart of AM Homes’ very black sense of humour — don’t read it if you’re easily offended); Music for Torching (a riotous, irreverent story about dysfunctional couple Paul and Elaine which foreshadows a lot of the themes in May We Be Forgiven);  and In a Country of Mothers (a novel about the relationship between a therapist and her patient, this turned out, I found out much later, to be a sort of fictional re-imagining of AM Homes’ own adoption story). There are also two great story collections, The Safety of Objects and Things You Should Know, both full of brilliantly sick Americana including a seductive Barbie doll and a man who urinates into his boss’s pot plant every day. (I’ve just written a thing about funny short stories for the people at the Bath Short Story Award and I am so annoyed that I did not put those in. Sorry.)

I’ve reviewed the memoir The Mistress’s Daughter, which is shocking, addictive and beautiful. She did not know this growing up but AM Homes’ biological father ran a department store: she was the daughter of one of his employees. AM Homes soon discovers she has four half-siblings, one of them born within a month of her. So these were the circumstances for the adoption: a man’s wife and mistress were pregnant at the same time. No wonder he had to choose.

And I’m very pleased to have given May We Be Forgiven a glowing review a full eight months (YES, I AM CLAIRVOYANT) before it won the Women’s Prize: “AM Homes can’t really be compared to any other writer; no one else is quite as dark and funny and elegant all at the same time. May We Be Forgiven has the narrative intensity of Jonathan Franzen‘s The Corrections and the emotional punch of Siri Hustvedt‘s What I Loved, all told through the eyes of Larry David. It’s the best thing I’ve read this year.*” If that isn’t a psychic prediction, I don’t know what is.


* NB: This could be seen as very faint praise if you only read one or two books a year. But I do have to read more than this. So I mean it as the highest and most genuine compliment. Plus I had read Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder, Maria Semple’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette and Anne Enright’s Forgotten Waltz in the same year so it’s not like there wasn’t much competition for the title.


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