Tuesday 16 February 2016

The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin

Noah is four and wants to go home. The only trouble is, he's already there.
Janie's son is her world, and it breaks her heart that he has nightmares. That he's terrified of water. That he sometimes pushes her away and screams that he wants his real mother. That it's getting worse and worse and no one seems to be able to help.
In desperation, she turns to someone who might have an answer - but it may not be one she's ready to hear.
It may also mean losing the one thing she loves more than anything, Noah.
A novel that spans life, death and everything in between. The Forgetting Time tells an unforgettable story about Noah, about love and, above all, about the memories that shape us. 

The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin was published in hardback by Mantle (Pan Macmillan) on 11 February 2016 and is Sharon Guskin's first novel.

A lot of books randomly drop through my letterbox, I also buy a lot of books. I've usually heard about the books that arrive in my house; I may have seen the publisher talk about them, or the author, or a fellow blogger. Every now and again I receive a parcel that contains a book that I've heard nothing about before. A totally random thing through my letterbox. The Forgetting Time was one of those books. I looked at that wonderful wonderful cover, I read the intriguing blurb and saw that it was a Mantle publication, and fell a little in love with the whole idea. I have not been disappointed. This is a story that absolutely transfixed me from page one, it's one of those books that you just have to discuss and would make the perfect book group read.

You Only Live Once

The four letters that seem to be the anthem of a generation. Plastered across t-shirts, on bags and on badges. It's a way to live life, to do things to excess and at times, a way to justify actions.
YOLO makes a fleeting appearance in The Forgetting Time; tattooed on the lower back of a character who is not even named. A quick glimpse of the tattoo of the moment, displayed by a young girl in a cafe, but those four initials ... those four words, are the central theme of his bewitching and original novel.

Janie is a single mother. Her young son Noah is her whole life, but Noah is a difficult child. He is terrified of water and refuses to take a bath. He's a bit smelly and sticky, and other people look at Janie and judge her because of it. Noah also asks when he will be going home, and when will he see his Mama again. He has nightmares that are vivid and disruptive. Janie loves Noah, but it hurts her when he pushes her away, she hurts for him when he becomes so distressed.

Noah's teacher is concerned. She askes difficult questions and thinks that Noah should have therapy. The therapists don't understand Noah and Janie doesn't know what to do next.

Professor Jerome 'Jerry' Anderson has spent his whole career trying to prove that some children have lived before. He's found cases, many in India, of children that speak about people and places that they've never seen or visited. Jerry is ill, it is ironic that the form of Aphasia that is eating away at his brain makes him forget. He finds it difficult to remember words and people but he is determined that he will find a child in America who 'remembers', for his last book.

It's kind of inevitable that Janie and Jerry will meet, and Noah will become Jerry's 'case'. Together, despite Janie's misgivings and protectiveness and yes, a hint of jealousy, they piece together Noah's story and make a long journey across the country to discover whether Noah really has lived before.

Reincarnation is a subject that I've never really thought about, I haven't read about it, or considered my feelings about it, but this story has really made me consider what I do believe. Sharon Guskin has cleverly interwoven snippets from a book called Life Before Life by Dr Jim Tucker and these reported incidents add a sense of reality to what could easily have been a novel of pure fantasy, for Life Before Life and Dr Tucker are actually real and not a figment of the author's imagination.

Sharon Guskin's characters are a delight. Noah is a strange little boy, who is complicated yet so innocent. Janie often feels quite distant from the reader whilst Jerry exposes his inner feelings, his despair and his sadness and his reasons for his determination.

The Forgetting Time could be classed as a mystery, but it is also a deeply moving story of how death and sorrow can impact on family relationships. The author's writing is beautiful, her story is compelling and whatever the reader's views on reincarnation, there is no doubt that is extremely clever and completely irresistible. The story and the characters will linger for a long time, the questions that arise are probably unanswerable.

My thanks to Anna from Pan Macmillan who surprised me with this clever and remarkable novel.

Sharon Guskin has degrees from Yale University and the Columbia University School of the Arts, and has worked as a writer and producer of prize-winning documentary films.
She lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband and two sons.

The Forgetting Time is her first novel.

Find out more at her website www.sharonguskin.com

Follow her on Twitter @SGuskin


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