Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

'A Thousand Pardons': Sorry, but ... Jonathan Dee's Sixth Novel Is a Modern Morality Tale of a High-Flying Family Coming Undone

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

'A Thousand Pardons': Sorry, but ... Jonathan Dee's Sixth Novel Is a Modern Morality Tale of a High-Flying Family Coming Undone

Article excerpt

"A THOUSAND PARDONS"

By Jonathan Dee.

Random House ($26).

Allow me to apologize. Please. It seems the thing to do these days, with public confession and apology such regular parts of our cultural landscape that the specifics of each scandal blur. Was it the politician, the military leader, the golfer, or the bicycling star, undone by power, money or sex? Yet so often the fallen hero rehabilitates himself and returns to the embrace of a public eager to forgive. And, with the right public relations team, almost any misstep can become the first step on the road to redemption.

In his sixth novel, "A Thousand Pardons," Jonathan Dee rides the zeitgeist of the golden age of public disclosure and orchestrated apologies, again offering a "ripped from the headlines" tale. In his previous novel, "The Privileges" (a finalist for the 2011 Pulitzer Prize), published not long after the collapse of several high- flying Wall Street firms and hedge funds, Mr. Dee illuminated an especially avaricious time and place, through the tale of a young married couple with no moral compass.

"A Thousand Pardons" also focuses on a "lost" couple, Ben and Helen Armstead, living in a suburb of New York City with their adopted adolescent daughter. Ben is a successful lawyer in the city; Helen is a stay-at-home mom. Their 18-year marriage has withered to the point where they communicate only in their marriage counselor's office. At their last session, Ben tearfully describes his sense of having lived every day before, and confesses that he is "bored to near panic by my home and my work and my wife and my daughter."

It doesn't take long for Ben to engineer his escape from the tedium of his life, through the most predictable route: He recklessly pursues a comely summer associate at his law firm. Their sad and creepy tryst in a hotel room ends with Ben being beaten by the woman's boyfriend, soon followed by criminal charges of sexual assault and DWI, a court-ordered stay in a rehab facility and 28- day jail sentence, and dismissal from the law firm. …

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