★￼"Huneven turns complicated moral issues into utterly riveting reading in this beautifully written story of remorse and redemption."
"In the short first section of this elegant, hair-raising novel, Joey, a precocious twelve-year-old, gets her ears pierced by her uncle’s girlfriend, Patsy, who seems like a minor character until Part Two, when she wakes up in jail and her story takes over. Patsy is a blackout drunk, accused of having run over and killed a mother and daughter in the driveway of her house. In prison, where she works at a firefighting camp, she is forced to join A.A., and guilt drives her not only to make amends but to do good. Released and sober, she takes an apartment with no associations, returns to her job teaching history, marries, and is negotiating a sticky web of relationships, when Joey, now in her twenties, reappears, with disorienting information. Huneven’s prose is flawless, with especially arresting descriptions of the Southern California landscape, and her strong but fragile heroine is mercilessly honest."
"Readers may be attracted to "Blame" by its provocative premise, but they will be seized by the way Huneven lays open the delicate tissues connecting intention and the self."
" 'Blame' . . . is firmly rooted in the moral ambiguities of addiction and recovery, probing responsibility, guilt and exoneration with a philosophical elegance. Huneven’s prose moves like a hummingbird, in small bursts that are improbably fast and graceful.
"The satisfactions 'Blame' offers readers are elegant prose and, deeper than that aesthetic pleasure, the intelligence and compassion Huneven brings to her characters. She holds them all with the utmost tenderness."
"Michelle Huneven’s third novel, the simply titled 'Blame,' offers a trifecta of reading pleasures. A coming-of-age book . . . . A social novel . . . . And it is a literary novel, with nimble prose, fully developed characters and emotion achieved not on the cheap but through an unsentimental, unblinking outlook."
"Huneven's tone . . . is near perfect. . . . In Blame Huneven takes her time to reach a conclusion that’s satisfying without being neat. True losses are offset by small gains. The snake is always coiled at the heart of paradise, but with goodwill and a dose of humility, even its actions can be forgiven."
"Michelle Huneven tells this story with a riveting sense of drama ...."
"Huneven lets events play out with just the right balance of melodrama and stoicism as Patsy sets about coping with a new reality. Blame is ultimately about the way choices stack on top of one another, each shaping the next until they become an entire life."
"This absorbing novel is brutally honest, beautifully written and in the end, redemptive”
"There are so many eye-popping scenes I would need to take my shoes off to count them."
"The result is a novel that combines the compulsive pleasures of a pageturner and the deeper satisfaction of true, thoughtful literature." A–
There were, obviously, a lot of writers hanging around April’s L.A. Times Festival of Books . . . . My favorite was Michele Huneven, whose 1998 novel Round Rock is near and dear to some obsessive readers’ hearts and should have won an award for most unknown great book. Huneven may get that or a better award next year, though, when her Blame appears in the fall:
★￼ "In this gripping tale, Huneven charts the parameters of guilt and how a young, wisecracking intellectual becomes a shadow of her former self. . . . Brilliant observations, excellent characters, spiffy dialogue and a clever plot . . . . keep readers hooked . . . . Huneven’s exploration of misdeeds real and imagined is humane, insightful and beautiful."
★ When college professor Patsy MacLemoore comes to in the drunk tank of the Altadena sheriff’s department, she can’t remember what she’s done. All she knows is that she has been there before and vowed she’d never return. This time it turns out that Patsy has killed two Jehovah’s Witnesses, a mother and daughter, while driving on a suspended license. She’s sentenced to four years in prison, and her life is never the same. From the horrific noise and filth of prison life to her membership in AA to her eventual release and slow climb back to normalcy, Patsy struggles to come to terms with the repercussions of her drunken blackout. She meets and marries a much older man who is completely devoted to his work with AA; she attempts to atone to the man whose family she killed and agrees to pay for his son’s college education; and she throws herself into her teaching career with a newfound sense of purpose. Then she receives startling new information about the exact circumstances of the accident and must once again remake her life. Huneven turns complicated moral issues into utterly riveting reading in this beautifully written story of remorse and redemption.