Summary and book reviews of The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin

The Forgetting Time

by Sharon Guskin

The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin X
The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2016, 368 pages
    Paperback:
    Feb 2017, 368 pages

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Book Summary

Noah wants to go home. A seemingly easy request from most four year olds. But as Noah's single-mother, Janie, knows, nothing with Noah is ever easy. One day the pre-school office calls and says Janie needs to come in to talk about Noah, and no, not later, now - and life as she knows it stops.

For Jerome Anderson, life as he knows it has stopped. A deadly diagnosis has made him realize he is approaching the end of his life. His first thought - I'm not finished yet. Once a shining young star in academia, a graduate of Yale and Harvard, a professor of psychology, he threw it all away because of an obsession. Anderson became the laughing stock of his peers, but he didn't care - something had to be going on beyond what anyone could see or comprehend. He spent his life searching for that something else. And with Noah, he thinks he's found it.

Soon Noah, Janie and Anderson will find themselves knocking on the door of a mother whose son has been missing for eight years - and when that door opens, all of their questions will be answered.

Sharon Guskin has written a captivating, thought-provoking novel that explores what we regret in the end of our lives and hope for in the beginning, and everything in between. In equal parts a mystery and a testament to the profound connection between a child and parent, The Forgetting Time marks the debut of a major new talent.

One

On the eve of her thirty-ninth birthday, on the bleakest day of the worst February in memory, Janie made what would turn out to be the pivotal decision of her life: she decided to take a vacation.

Trinidad was not the best choice, maybe; if she was going that far she should really have gone to Tobago or Venezuela, but she liked the sound of it, Trin-i-dad, its musicality like a promise. She bought the cheapest ticket she could find and got there just as the carnival revelers were all going home, the gutters filled with the most beautiful trash she'd ever seen. The streets were empty, people sleeping off the party. The cleanup crew moved slowly, in a contented, underwater shuffle. She'd scooped up handfuls of confetti and stray glittery feathers and plastic jewelry from the curb and stuffed them in her pockets, trying to absorb frivolity by osmosis.

There was a wedding going on in her hotel, an American woman marrying a Trinidadian man, and most of the guests were there for...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. What is the significance of the novel's title? What roles do forgetting and remembering play in the lives of Guskin's characters?
  2. How does the novel's narrative structure illuminate its characters as the chapters move back and forth among perspectives? How does the tone in Janie's, Denise's, and Anderson's chapters differ?
  3. How did the case studies embedded within the novel affect your reading experience?
  4. Most of Anderson's cases are in Southeast Asia. Why do you think that is? How does the novel address the East-West cultural divide?
  5. At the end of chapter 2, Anderson reflects: "Never expect. It had been the lesson of his life." How has the unexpected shaped him? How has it shaped Janie and Denise?
  6. ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

This novel was fascinating, thought-provoking, page-turning magic. It has been a very long time since a novel has touched me so deeply. Beautifully done! (Nikki M) Ever since finishing this book, I find myself, daily, thinking about the possibilities of the way we view our past and our future. Thank you, BookBrowse, for an author I likely would not have found otherwise. It's that good! (Laure R)   (Reviewed by BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers).

Full Review (792 words).

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Media Reviews

Kirkus Reviews

Guskin's debut novel tells a sentimental story with a murder mystery at its core, and it's interesting even if you don't go for the premise.

Booklist

Starred Review. Readers will be galvanized by Guskin's sharply realized and sympathetic characters with all their complications, contradictions, failures, sorrows, and hope. Deftly braiding together suspense, family drama, and keen insights into the workings of the brain, Guskin poses key and unsettling questions about love and memory, life and death, belief and fact.

Author Blurb Jodi Picoult, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Leaving Time
Provocative, evocative, and fresh, Guskin's book is an explosive debut.

Author Blurb Téa Obreht, New York Times bestselling author of The Tiger's Wife
Sharon Guskin's debut is the literary equivalent of the sensation you get when, after stargazing from some hillside on a clear night, you're suddenly hit with the terrifying and exhilarating scope of the unknowable. A truly remarkable, dizzying and exquisite page-turner.

Author Blurb Christina Baker Kline, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Orphan Train
The Forgetting Time is about memory and forgetting, grieving and letting go, and the lengths a mother will go to for her child. It is both a relentlessly paced page-turner and a profound meditation on the meaning of life.

Author Blurb Dani Shapiro, bestselling author of Devotion
A very moving, soulful, and beautifully-made debut.

Author Blurb Mary Morris, author of The Jazz Palace
A spellbinding ride. Guskin's beautifully rendered and wonderfully told novel explores the mysteries of how we connect to one another in the deepest of ways. What an amazing book.

Author Blurb Diane Chamberlain, New York Times bestselling author of The Silent Sister
Sharon Guskin has written a novel that's meticulously crafted without ever losing the heart and soul of the story. It's both a beautiful tale of the bond between a mother and her young son as well as a gripping mystery that asks that universal human question 'were we here before?'

Reader Reviews

Erin J. (Milwaukie, OR)

Haunting and unforgettable
It took me a couple of chapters to really get into the story and figure out what was going on, but once I did, I was hooked. Haunted, really, and not in the "scary-ghost" sense of the word, but in the "can't-stop-thinking-about-it-long-after-lunch-...   Read More

Rita K. (Bannockburn, IL)

Thought provoking book
I wasn't sure when I starting reading the book, what to expect. Then the more I read, it was hard to put down. I've read about reincarnation before, but this made it seem so real. Poor Noah had such a difficult life in his short 4 years, with so ...   Read More

Ilyse B. (Howell, NJ)

Love, Grief and Acceptance
The Forgetting Time was a very enjoyable read with well drawn, believable characters. I liked the unique subject matter-a chid who is born carrying the soul of another child recently deceased -and I thought the author did a very good job of ...   Read More

Amber B. (East Sparta, OH)

Excellent character development
The Forgetting Time was a fascinating novel, with unforgettable characters and quite a unique plot. My heart ached for each of the characters in the book - as each grappled with their own loss, different than the other. This would make an excellent ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Dr. Ian Stevenson

Dr. Ian StevensonSharon Guskin's debut novel, The Forgetting Time, explores reincarnation – specifically children who seem to experience it. In an interview about her research, she explains that after stumbling across a book about Dr. Ian Stevenson and his intense research of children and reincarnation, she was hooked.

Ian Stevenson (1918-2007) was a psychiatrist and professor at the University of Virginia School of Medicine for 50 years. His work focused on reincarnation and he spent over 40 years traveling around the world, studying over 3000 children who said they remembered having past lives. During that time, Stevenson pinpointed evidence suggesting that memories and physical injuries can be transferred from one lifetime to another. He ...

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