The Apology Project – Can Saying “I’m Sorry” Restore Friendships?

Amelia Montgomery is a hard-driving litigator, a partner in a prestigious Chicago law firm, Jones, Jones, & Fisher. Her demanding managing style has earned her the nickname “She-Demon.” Amelia has been tasked with defending Hugh Phoebe, a wealthy misogynist charged with sexual assault and rape. The firm’s two top attorneys – Marc Jones, Sr. and Marc Jones, Jr. – meet with her to discuss strategy, which basically requires Amelia to use anything in the women’s backgrounds to tear them apart on the witness stand. When Amelia objects, the encounter gets physical. She trips and her elbow succeeds in striking Junior on the nose, the crunch of cartilage filling the conference room. In a flash, Amelia is not only without a case, but without a job.

Amelia signs an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) and walks away with a multi-million dollar package that ensures she won’t starve, but muzzles her from discussing what prompted her to leave. Without the career that once defined her, Amelia is rudderless. Since she’s about to turn 40, her sister, Nina, convinces her to throw a party and invite people she hasn’t seen for years, as well her co-workers from JJF. When no one, besides Nina and their parents, show up, Amelia realizes that outside of work, she has no life and no friends. 

One person does show up – John Ellis, JJE’s newest associate. Perhaps as a joke, Margret, Amelia’s much abused assistant, forwarded the invite to John, although he was not on Nina’s list. John, believing that much of the firm would show up, walks into a near empty restaurant. Rather than leave, he’s drawn in by Amelia’s looks and by her take-no-prisoners reputation. The two drink too much and, after ending up in bed, hatch a plan: Amelia needs to go back and apologize to all those she has insulted, maligned, hurt, etc., in the past in order to clean up her act and, hopefully, find some friends.

Next day, sober but with a blistering headache, Amelia wakes up in John’s bed, regretting the evening’s events. John, however, does not and he picks up where they left off: planning what comes to be called “The Apology Project.” He convinces Amelia – she now decides to be called Millie, signaling she’s after a new identity – to start right away. The target is a former law school friend, Brenda Nelson. Amelia once dated Brenda’s brother, Evan, until she discovered he already had a girlfriend. Although Brenda swore she didn’t know what her brother was doing, Amelia didn’t care. She broke up with Evan and stopped speaking to Brenda.

Millie’s timing isn’t great, showing up at a church where Evan has just gotten married. But encouraged by John, she manages to find and apologize to a very startled Brenda. One down, many more to go. Some of the apologies are messy, others surprising. And a few, after closer examination, don’t warrant an apology, at least not from Amelia. 

For a birthday present, Millie’s mother gave her a 23andMe test kit. Millie’s father came to his family through adoption and knew nothing about his birth family. While he’s still not interested in finding out more about his background, Millie becomes fascinated. She discovers that she is part Spanish and Cuban and locates a cousin, Rosa, living in Havana. A correspondence in English begins (Rosa had lived and worked in Miami), and Millie enrolls in a Spanish class, hoping to connect more with this newfound side of her family.

Jeanette Escudero, an attorney whose parents are Cuban, has written a delightful novel that touches on many themes – family, friendship, redemption, and love. Amelia seemed to have it all, but it was only when she lost everything that she realized she had nothing without people in her life to love and care about. The Apology Project may have many people writing up their own lists of those they need to reach out to, maybe not with an apology, but perhaps with a caring and encouraging word. 

The Apology Project
Jeanette Escudero

Top photo: Jeanette Escudero

About Charlene Giannetti (507 Articles)
Charlene Giannetti, editor of Woman Around Town, is the recipient of seven awards from the New York Press Club for articles that have appeared on the website. A graduate of Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Charlene began her career working for a newspaper in Pennsylvania, then wrote for several publications in Washington covering environment and energy policy. In New York, she was an editor at Business Week magazine and her articles have appeared in many newspapers and magazines. She is the author of 13 non-fiction books, eight for parents of young adolescents written with Margaret Sagarese, including "The Roller-Coaster Years," "Cliques," and "Boy Crazy." She and Margaret have been keynote speakers at many events and have appeared on the Today Show, CBS Morning, FOX News, CNN, MSNBC, NPR, and many others. Her last book, "The Plantations of Virginia," written with Jai Williams, was published by Globe Pequot Press in February, 2017. Her podcast, WAT-CAST, interviewing men and women making news, is available on Soundcloud and on iTunes. She is one of the producers for the film "Life After You," focusing on the opioid/heroin crisis that had its premiere at WorldFest-Houston International Film Festival, where it won two awards. Charlene divides her time between homes in Manhattan and Alexandria, Virginia.