Book Review: The Art of Forgetting

The Art of Forgetting
Camille Noe Pagan
Published by: Dutton Adult
Release Date: June 9, 2011
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Source: Provided by Publisher
Audience: Adult (Clean)

This book came to me by default. Andrea knows that as a former dancer, I love books about ballet. So when she showed me this cover and asked if I'd like to read this book, I jumped on it without bothering to find out what the book was actually about. So before I start my actual review, let's take a moment to admire the beautiful cover - stunning, isn't it? The graceful arch of her back, the flow of her skirt and stretch of her arms. I love a beautiful cover that makes me want to read the book.

Ok, now let's talk about the story. The Art of Forgetting actually has very little do do with ballet. It is a beautiful story of friendship and growth, both individual growth as well as the growth of relationships. Marissa is very content to live life in the shadow of her best friend, Julia. She is happy in her stable relationship and right on track with her career goals. All of that changes when Julia is involved in an accident that leaves her with traumatic brain damage, leaving her memory and personality altered. Merissa struggles to find her balance as the roles of their friendship reverse. As this is happening, Julia brings an ex-boyfriend back into Merissa's life - one that Julia forced Marissa to break up with in college - the one that Marissa still thinks of as "the one that got away". Marissa is faced with upheaval and hard decisions in every aspect of her life, from her relationship with her steady and devoted boyfriend to her friendship with Julia, and even her career path.

Camille Noe Pagan weaves a beautiful tale of friendship and love. I was surprised to find that the focus actually revolves around Marissa and the decisions that she has to make, rather than the friendship between Marissa and Julia. For me, this made the story even richer because I was able to identify with Marissa and gain insight into every aspect of her life. I loved the simplistic first-person writing. This is the first book in a long time that I didn't feel the need to skim over flowery wording or too detailed passages. I shared Marissa's frustration and pain while learning to accept the changes in Julia and the new dynamic of their relationship. I was just as conflicted as she was exploring the possibility of a lost love without damaging her current relationship. (And I have to admit that I couldn't decide until the very end which man I wanted to see Marissa with in the end, but by the time she made her decision, I was with her 100% and was so happy with her choice.) With everything else going on in Marissa's life, she also takes on the role of coach and mentor to teenage girls through a running organization. I have only one word to describe this part of the storyline - inspiring. Reading about Marissa's experience with these teens, the affect it had on her as well as the girls she coached, made me want to go out and find a local organization. As if all of this was not enough to make me love the book, Marissa's family totally sucked me in. My favorite part of this story is how Marissa's relationship with her sister changed through out the book. I am very lucky to have a close and loving relationship with my sisters. They are my best friends. So to watch Marissa develop that closeness with her sister was a treasure for me. (I know - that sounds so cheesy, but it's true!) I really could go on and on about Marissa's family, but I don't want to give away any spoilers, and this is one family that you have to read to believe. I'll just say that they are a source of laughter and tears the whole way through. They bring in some needed comedic relief, but their actions also help to unsettle Marissa, and to help her along her journey of self discovery.

So while the book actually had next to nothing to do about ballet (Julia was a dancer before her accident), the story still touched a spot in my heart. It's not a light, easy read - it's an emotional ride. But it's not so emotional that you have a hard time reading it. There are enough warm, cozy moments to balance everything out. It is a true story of friendship lost and gained, of love questioned and renewed, and of the amazing capacity of the human heart and mind to grow and strengthen in spite of the road blocks that life throws our way.

Summary from Goodreads:

Marissa Rogers never wanted to be an alpha; beta suited her just fine. Taking charge without taking credit had always paid off: vaulting her to senior editor at a glossy magazine; keeping the peace with her critical, weight-obsessed mother; and enjoying the benefits of being best friends with gorgeous, charismatic, absolutely alpha Julia Ferrar.

And then Julia gets hit by a cab. She survives with minor obvious injuries, but brain damage steals her memory and alters her personality, possibly forever. Suddenly, Marissa is thrown into the role of alpha friend. As Julia struggles to regain her memory- dredging up issues Marissa would rather forget, including the fact that Julia asked her to abandon the love of her life ten years ago- Marissa's own equilibrium is shaken.

With the help of a dozen girls, she reluctantly agrees to coach in an after-school running program. There, Marissa uncovers her inner confidence and finds the courage to reexamine her past and take control of her future.

The Art of Forgetting is a story about the power of friendship, the memories and myths that hold us back, and the delicate balance between forgiving and forgetting.