“You should see what happens when I go into town, to buy food and whatnot. Everyone who recognizes me hates my guts. Which is both a bad feeling and a good one. Good because it’s bad. It’s hard to describe.”
Ben and Helen Armstead have hit an all-time low. During a counseling session, Ben blurted out that he’d rather be with almost anyone besides his wife. She bores him. They have been together for a long time and were once madly in love. So, naturally, Helen took offense at this comment. In reality, Ben’s depression has been causing massive problems, so maybe it wasn’t something that just came out of left field all of a sudden.
"An encouraging book, full of heart and frustration, A THOUSAND PARDONS should have a place on every bookshelf."
Unfortunately, following this bold admission, Ben acts on his desires, drinks himself into a near coma, and lands himself in jail and in the middle of at least one lawsuit. Now, Helen is embarrassed to show her face in their small town, and they both have a new worry: money. To top it off, they have been lying to their daughter, Sara, about what they’ve been calling “date night.” They didn’t want her to know about their weekly therapy sessions. If you asked her, Sara would tell you that she couldn’t care less what her parents were doing, as long as they left her alone. As a typically sullen teenager, she has the attitude down to an adolescent science.
Of course, there has to be a bright spot somewhere. In the midst of all this negativity, Helen discovers a talent that had previously been buried. Feeling the burgeoning monetary pinch, she searches for and stumbles onto a job in Manhattan that fits her rusty career skills. To her astonishment, she becomes a public relations rock star, quickly rising in esteem in New York’s dog-eat-dog business world. Corporations and high-profile persons with PR headaches begin to seek Helen out in droves. It is a bit overwhelming for this mother and suburban housewife. Her goal has always been to be a good wife and mother (though now pared down to just good mother). Meanwhile, her daughter’s goal is to avoid her at all costs. And unknown to Helen, her husband’s goal is to recover what he has lost.
While Helen is busy helping other people work through the messes they’ve created, she has trouble working through her own. Her capacity to forgive has been seriously compromised, and she rightfully feels justified in her anger. But unless she can let go of that anger, she will never heal. Each member of this tiny family does a lot of soul searching --- admittedly, in his or her own way. They do a tremendous amount of falling down and pulling themselves back up, but they ultimately arrive…well, somewhere.
This could be the story of anyone you know. Or even your own story. It only takes one misstep to set in motion a series of very bad circumstances. Helen, Ben and Sara live through their series of bad circumstances and come out the other side as very changed people. An encouraging book, full of heart and frustration, A THOUSAND PARDONS should have a place on every bookshelf.
Reviewed by Kate Ayers on March 22, 2013