The People in Your Neighborhood

October 4, 2012

A.M. Homes’ new book, “May We Be Forgiven,” follows two brothers in a bad situation.

A.M. Homes’ writing — fiction and non — is daring and dangerous: Like Raymond Carver (the early ’80s king of irredeemable characters), Homes, 50, brings readers inside the hearts of the off-putting, sometimes criminal personalities that populate her stories. The suburban-D.C. native’s latest novel, “May We Be Forgiven,” follows two wealthy, middle-aged brothers through a familial rough patch: After George accidently kills a family with his car, younger bro Harry steps in to help out at home — and beds George’s wife. It’s not Homes’ first time scratching suburbia’s surface to reveal the soft decay beneath, as a selection of her work reveals:

‘Jack’: Homes’ debut novel, written when she was 19, focused on a teen coming to terms with his parents’ divorce and his father’s homosexuality. Jack is “an engaging, attractive human being,” as David Foster Wallace described him when the book was published in 1989. Later characters, not so much.

‘The Safety of Objects’: Homes’ 1990 short-story collection went darker. For instance, in “Adults Alone,” the book’s oddly touching standout piece, two middle-class parents spend a kid-free weekend trying to reconnect with each other by doing a bunch of crack.

‘The End of Alice’: This 1996 novel — told from the point of view of Chappy, a child killer corresponding from prison with a 19-year-old girl — freaked people out. Homes published a companion volume, “Appendix A: An Elaboration on the Novel ‘The End of Alice,’ ” to explain Chappy’s motivations.

‘The L Word’: Homes, who is bisexual, wrote for seasons 2 and 3 of the Showtime series. She kindly helped send brooding writer Jenny Schecter and her gender-transitioning partner, Moira, on a nerve-racking cross-country tour of terrifying rednecks and small-town gay bars.

‘The Mistress’s Daughter’: Homes, who was adopted, chronicled reconnecting with her birth parents in this 2007 memoir. Things didn’t go perfectly (with her mentally ill mother, especially), yet this turned out to be one of Homes’ most accessible books.

Politics and Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW; Sat., 6 p.m., free; 202-364-1919. (Van Ness)
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Shauna Miller | October 4, 2012