U is for Unforgivable: [the inability] to grant pardon for or remission of an offense. (Dictionary.com)
If you’ve followed this blog at all, especially in recent months, then you know my book is all about forgiveness. Though I recently took the absolute worst part of my protagonist’s offense out as terms of my publishing deal, what remains is still mighty abhorrent. The main character in The Mistaken commits a reprehensible act in retribution for the death of his pregnant wife. But it’s not until after he has mistakenly exacted his vengeance against an innocent woman that he realizes just how far he has fallen from the honorable man he used to be, before grief, rage, and alcohol transformed him. Afterwards, he realizes he must find a way to atone for his shameful sins.
All along—since the very inception of the idea for this book—I’ve been searching for answers. You hear all the time on the news about some ordinary, upstanding guy who, for whatever reason, commits an unspeakable crime, something that all his friends and family say is completely against his nature. He couldn’t have done it. They just don’t believe it. George Zimmerman and the killing of Trayvon Martin comes to mind.
So what makes a man (or woman) commit a heinous act, especially a good man, an honorable man who holds to the very letter of the law? That is why I wrote The Mistaken. All along, I wanted to show that a good man could be turned into a monster yet somehow find his back to the man he used to be, or a semblance thereof, anyway. I wanted to show that the unforgivable could actually be forgiven.
Most readers are pretty forgiving, though they do want someone to believe in, someone they can understand and associate with, so giving them a protagonist who commits an egregious act is risky, at best, and just plain crazy, at worst. And though I did compromise slightly by taking out his most heinous offense, what he does is still pretty deplorable. But I don’t think there is anything that is truly unforgivable. Humans are complex, ruled not only by their hearts and emotions, but also by their circumstances. Who’s to say they wouldn’t do something in the intense heat of the moment? When their life, health, or happiness, or that of their loved ones, was at great risk? Sure, we’d like to think, after years of conditioning, that we would never cross the line, but the truth is, it happens everyday, all over the world. It could happen. There is always that possibility. We are human, and therefore fallible. And then there’s that whole whoever-is-without-sin, cast-the-first-stone argument. In addition, I’ll throw in the one about walking-in-their-shoes, because you just never know. So it’s comforting to believe that forgiveness—even for what seems to be the most unforgivable—is possible
What do you think? Could you cheer on a protagonist who is so flawed and damaged that he could commit the seemingly unforgivable? Do you truly believe in redemption for those most in need of it?