Name of Book: The Art of Forgetting
By: Camille Noe Pagan
Publisher: Dutton Books (a member of Penguin Group)
Copyright Date: 2011
Number of Pages: 291
Reason for Reading: cover love
“The human brain contains billions upon billions of neurons. Microscopic nerve cells that operate not unlike worker bees, they connect and communicate millions of times within a span of a single second. It is their conversations that allow us to move, see, think, breathe, live. But when the brain is shaken by a blunt force, its fragile neural fibers are stretched, rendering them brittle and inefficient. And if the force is strong enough—as it was, I learn, with Julia’s accident—the ravaged neurons die, and with them, memories and abilities and countless other possibilities that may not become apparent for weeks and even months to come.”
Julia and Marissa have been best friends since childhood. Marissa has been happy to reside in Julia’s shadow. Thus far it has worked out nicely. After graduation, they moved to New York together to pursue their big dreams, which have panned out almost as they envisioned. Julia’s been promoted to publicist at the ballet company she dances with. Marissa is next in line to become editor-in-chief at the glossy weight loss magazine. It would appear they are reaching their zenith, when the unthinkable happens. While crossing the street, a cab slams into Julia, completely bowling her over and injuring her brain. Life changes dramatically for the two friends as they deal with the effects of the injury, the ways it has profoundly affected Julia’s behavior and personality.
The book started out somewhat slow, but a few chapters in I was hooked enough that I kept reading. I am hard pressed to pinpoint exactly what it is that gives life to a character; what makes them go from being words on a page to a living, breathing, tangible form. Whatever that magic spark is, it didn’t quite seem to hit the characters in The Art of Forgetting. The story was intriguing enough that I kept reading although I had moments where I was really frustrated with Marissa. She is quite the insecure character and has practically given over everything to Julia during the entire time they’ve been friends. Sometimes I felt angry or disgusted. However, there is some real growth on the part of the characters, both Marissa and Julia. It was one of those rare endings that I actually found quite satisfying and it improved my feeling of the book overall.
My favorite character was Estrella, one of the little girls that Marissa coaches. That one had the magic spark. She jumps off the page. She has such great wisdom and self-confidence packed in her little ten year old self, despite being awkward and the target of the mean girls. One of the best scenes is when Marissa finally gets to meet Estrella’s mom, whom the other coaches have told her, you’ll understand why Estrella is that way. I found that moment, and the relationship it implies exists between Estrella and her mother to be quite refreshing.
An interesting story about how brain injury affects one’s personality, behavior and the relationships around them. It could also be a coming of age story for adults, the story of a young woman leaving her twenties behind and discovers her own potential and value.