"What power has love but forgiveness? By its intervention, what has been
done can be undone. What good is it otherwise?" wrote William Carlos
Williams, the philandering doctor-poet, in a poem to his wife Flossie.
Williams' rather self-serving brief on behalf of forgiveness comes to mind
when reading Mariah Burton Nelson's new book on the topic. Nelson, today
an accomplished sportswriter, had a highly ambiguous, clearly exploitative
relationship with her married 25-year-old athletic coach when she was 14.
She was angry at him for two decades, but after a long series of
telephone conversations, letter exchanges and in-person meetings with him,
she felt herself able to forgive.
Are there limits to forgiveness? No, not really, writes Nelson in "The
Unburdened Heart." Though she draws on Christian and Buddhist teachings, Nelson's own narrative is the most interesting part of the book; she reports on both sides, so the reader can to some extent decide independently whether
"Bruce," the older man, is honest or as disingenuous as Williams in his
pleas for absolution.