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The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin - Review

Saturday, February 11, 2017

As I mentioned previously, I'd like to review all the books I read this year. This is an adult book but I think that an older teenager could enjoy it, especially one who is interested in philosophy and the existence of life after death.

I read this book for Jenny's online book club. I really didn't enjoy it, I just couldn't get into it. I'm interested to see what everyone else thinks about it, because I could only give it a 3 out of 5.

Janie is a single mother to Noah. She had sex on a beach with a man called Jeff and returns to New York where she works as an interior designer. When Noah is four, the two are having some problems. Noah refuses to have a bath and is terrified of water. He also continually asks when he can go home. He says that he used to be a 9 year old called Tommy.

Dr Jerry Anderson is a researcher at the end of his career. He has spent his professional life researching cases of children who remember being other people, who talk about the deaths they suffered, who can correctly identify places, family members, and even belongings of the people they say they were. His cases have mostly been in places like Thailand and India, and he has written a book which, the publishers say, needs a strong American case included too.

Anderson is suffering from dementia, and although he can remember all his cases and most of his life's work, he struggles with the present. He isn't sure he'll manage to finish his book. We're shown his thought processes and his lack of ability to find the right word, which is a really powerful part of the book.

Janie goes to Anderson to get help for Noah, but while she's expecting a psychiatrist who can cure him of his fears, she finds instead a man who wants to match Noah's story to an actual event, to try to find the "previous personality" that Noah remembers being.

Interspersed within the novel are extracts from a book which is about this very thing, documenting real life cases, by Dr Jim Tucker. The author talks a little bit about this at the end of the book.

I really struggled to get into the novel, and I'm not really sure why. When I did manage to read it, I found it easy to read and interesting, but it wasn't gripping me enough to keep picking it up. I liked Janie a lot and I felt she was doing her best for her son. I liked Anderson, too, although some of his decisions are a but stupid. Later in the book though we get other people's points of view and I found the transition between them pretty jarring.

It talks quite a lot about death and the philosophy around death, and there's some violence too, but there's little sexual content. If the subject matter appeals, pick it up!

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