It’s been a decade since A. M. Homes’ May We Be Forgiven was published so I was more than keen to read The Unfolding, particularly as the blurb suggested a state of the nation novel, although in this case it’s a look back at that state when the seeds of what was to come eight years later were sown. Opening on the day of the 2008 American presidential election, Homes’ satire ends on Obama’s first inauguration day when a shadowy association is confirmed, bent on overthrowing the new order so alien to its members.
Who will run the world when I’m gone?
The Big Guy is sitting in a hotel bar, knowing the game’s up for his party. Something must be done he and his drinking companion agree. It’s been a big election for the Big Guy whose daughter has cast her vote for the first time. Meghan’s a bright young woman, her views shaped by her parents but more than capable of thinking for herself, if a little naive. Returning home, the Big Guy sets about making contacts, some more extreme than others, working towards his plans to restore his vision of America which he knows will take time. Things aren’t all plain sailing: he’s a little unsettled by his best friend continuing to work for the Obama administration although that might be useful, come the revolution, and when his wife’s drinking can no longer be called social, he admits her to rehab, so drunk she’s unaware of where she is. On inauguration day, the conspirators meet for a celebration meal while Meghan attends the ceremony with her godfather. By then a bombshell has been dropped that has entirely changed Meghan’s view of herself and her family. At the end, the Big Guy announces his life’s goal, a surprising one which might even come true but perhaps not quite in the way he plans.
America is in the crapper and we need to do something about it
Sharply observed, Homes’ novel is also very funny, making you wince through the laughter in the way that successful satire does. It would have been easy to turn the Big Guy into a cartoon Trumpian figure but Homes paints him as someone who believes himself to be a kind and generous man, unable to accept the idea that his day may have passed or that his behaviour towards his wife, allowed no life of her own, is deeply misogynistic, not to mention his belief that daughters don’t count as much as sons. He’s a rich, spoiled, supremely egotistical white man, not consciously cruel or entirely unreasonable or stupid, drawing increasingly odd, downright deranged and violent people into his inner circle. I found it riveting but, probably a statement of the obvious, it’s a deeply political novel and may not appeal to everyone.
Granta Books: London 9781783785339 416 pages Paperback (Read via NetGalley)
That’s it from me for ten days or so. H and I are finally using our Eurostar tickets, bought in early 2020, and taking ourselves off to the Netherlands where we will not be visiting Amsterdam.