Like a lot of books I read, Blame moved on and off my radar for a while before I picked it up. Audible recommended it as an audiobook, but I wasn't sure about the reader; someone I know online liked it. And, as often happens, what sold me was its availability at the library I happened to be at when my first choice book wasn't available.
Situations like this always make me grateful. Luck brought me a book I was only moderately interested in, and I'm lucky to have read it. I have a well documented sketchy relationship with literary fiction, but the idea that I might be missing books like Blame because of that skittishness is off-putting.
On one level, this is an addiction recovery novel--a very straightforward story of a woman, Patsy, who hits rock bottom and climbs out. On another level, it's about Patsy's relationship with herself--control, forgiveness, and the struggle to be a good person when she's already done pretty much the worst bad-person thing that you can do. But then, I suppose all addiction recovery stories are similarly about coming to terms with yourself.
Blame has the quality of close observation of the mundane that seems to really define today's literary fiction, but adds to that the interest of observing something that I haven't experienced myself, and that seems worth looking at. What must it be like to know that you killed someone by accident? What would jail be like for a nice, middle-class girl like me? I've wondered about these things, and the straightforward thoroughness with which Huneven covers them satisfies my desires for both story and information.
Patsy goes to jail, joins AA, gets paroled, goes back to work, attends therapy, makes friends, lives her life. Most of the book takes place in the 1980s, and we meet the people who surround her--her brother, her old friends, her AA friends, the men she's attracted to, the people who revile her, the people who forgive her.
I think that what I loved about this book was that the story it told me was one that, though it's been told before, I'd never heard before. To me, that's what set it apart from other literary fiction--that the observations it makes are ones that I might or might not have guessed, but have always wondered about.