Author: Camille Noe Pagán
Genre: Fiction (Contemporary / Friendship / New York City)
Publisher/Publication Date: Dutton (6/9/2011)
Source: TLC Book Tours
Rating: Okay to meh.
Did I finish?: Yes, in three hours at the pool.
One-sentence summary: Hallmark-y novel about two friends rebuilding their friendship after an accident changes one friend's personality and eradicates her memories.
Reading Challenges: None.
Do I like the cover?: It's pretty, and the image relates to one of the characters. I quite love the fonts used for the title and author's name.
First line: There is only one way to boost your metabolism: exercise.
Does... this novel feel like a Hallmark-movie-meets-an-after school-special?: YES. It's very wholesome and topically complicated with a very heartwarming conclusion.
Did... I feel decidedly unhealthy while reading this book?: YES. Between the heroine's participation in a running organization and her knowledge of diets, I felt a bit like a slob lounging at the pool with my goldfish crackers.
Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: This kind of book isn't my tastes, so I'd lean toward avoid; but as I've said above, for those who like hopeful stories (this isn't really inspirational) of the Hallmark Movie variety, this might be worth owning. (See the other reviews from blogs on this tour for more opinions.)
Why did I get this book?: The premise -- memories forgotten, friendships having to be rebuilt -- fascinated me.
Review: This breezy novel is easy to enjoy in one sitting (I completed it in three hours at the pool), and for good and for bad, it's a light, straightforward story reminiscent of a Hallmark film. Following Marissa Rogers, a health magazine editor in New York City who suffers from poor self-esteem, an awful mother, and a lifelong friendship with the selfish and popular Julia Ferrar, the novel explores themes of self value and identity, forgiveness, the impacts of painful decisions on friendships, and taking responsibility for one's choices.
The writing was a bit thin for my tastes but as a result, this potentially overwrought topic is presented in a very grounded manner, rather than mired in melodrama or exaggerated emotion. Unfortunately, I never completely connected with Julia, the brain damage victim, or Marissa, the passive doormat friend, and that impacted my ability to totally enjoy this novel. I could certainly relate at moments to each character (and the dangerous allure of strong personalities) but both characters were written so broadly and were thinly fleshed out, I failed to see the appeal of either woman.
Pagan's previous writing experience includes articles for magazines like Fitness, Glamour, Self, and Women's Health, and chunks of the novel read more like a piece of how-to journalism than a novel. Marissa becomes a coach for an organization that uses running as a way to help at risk girls find self-esteem, and I found myself skimming those passages, which felt like PSAs on a variety of issues (self-esteem, bullying). While certainly admirable, they were also boring.
The romantic 'triangle' between Marissa, her first boyfriend Nathan, and her current boyfriend Dave, was another note that rang false (although Dave is one of my favorite of the secondary characters, for being the voice of reason time and time again). I certainly have my own 'what if' moments and mistakes made in college that I still regret, but I'm not sure I'd derail my whole life a decade later because my brain damaged friend decided to pull strings and manipulate an unwanted reunion.
The novel had some lovely secondary characters I really enjoyed, like Marissa's sister Sarah, her boss Naomi, and her aforementioned boyfriend Dave. The themes of self-discovery and forgiveness run through all Marissa's interactions and for me, it invited some reflection on my own painful memories and the behaviors of my own I regretted. The novel closed with a very hopeful note without being too cheesy, and I think many folks who want a summer read with a little more emotion might enjoy this one.
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The publisher has generously offered a copy of The Art of Forgetting to my readers. To enter, leave a comment with an email address. Open to US/CA, ends 7/15.