I read the first chapter without reading the jacket description. I should do this more often as I was able to let go of any expectations about the book and just immerse myself in the writing and the characters. As it was, the book’s main character only played a small part in chapter one. In the hands of a less-skilled writer this might have been a sticking point, but instead it came off as brilliant. Blame by Michelle Huneven reminds me of a more cheerful Janet Fitch novel (women in a California prison leads to obvious comparisons), but where Fitch would have drawn stark and sad metaphors and left unfortunate Patsy to ruminate and descend into darkness, Huneven paints Patsy with grace and hope—and she’s only in prison for a few chapters. The rest of the cast, including wealthy and handsome Brice, lovely and doomed Guilles (a gay man in a novel set in mostly in the 1980s has his dramatic work cut out for him, doesn’t he?), the imposing and flawed Cal, all have a tremendous impact on Patsy’s recovery. Oh, didn’t I mention? Patsy is a raging alcoholic who kills two people while on a bender (hence prison!). Blame is a thoughtful, well-paced novel about a woman who becomes someone new after discovering guilt and, rather than wallowing in it, chooses to rise above it.

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