Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Art of Forgetting by Camille Noe Pagan

Title: The Art of Forgetting
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.

*** *** ***

GIVEAWAY!

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.

23 comments:

  1. I've seen pretty mixed reviews of this one...I'm not much for greeting-card movies, or romantic triange manipulations, so I think I'll give this a pass. Thanks for the honest, and detailed review :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hmm...I'm thinking this isn't my cup of tea. I'm not one for Hallmark movies. No need to enter me; I don't want to feel guilty reading while I snack and lounge. ;)

    ReplyDelete
  3. *coughs* Sure I can watch those happy Hallmark C movies but read a book like them, no thanks

    ReplyDelete
  4. It sounds like the authors previous work in magazines actually may have polluted the book in subtle ways. I have been reading a lot of great reviews of this one all over the place, so I was glad to see a more balanced and considered review here today. I fear that this book is probably not for me. Not only because of the hallmark feel, but also because of the thinly disguised self-help feeling as well. Thanks for being honest and sharing your unguarded opinions with us on this one. It was much appreciated.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I would like to give it a try, enter me. I am a nursing student, just took my psychology course and sounds intriguing with memories. Just reading Still Alice that talks about loss of memory. So please add me and thank you for hosting. bookmark 60 at hotmail dot com.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thank you for the giveaway!

    vanessanicole21 at yahoo dot com

    ReplyDelete
  7. I have been trying to get my hands on this book for way too long. I have seen mixed reviews, but I still am desperate to read it. Thank you for the chance at winning a copy!

    jaidahsmommy(at)comcast(dot)net

    ReplyDelete
  8. I would love to add this one to my summer reads. I like the cover! Thanks!

    Margaret
    singitm@hotmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thanks for the review. I would love to read this on the beach.

    lag110 at mchsi dot com

    ReplyDelete
  10. I would like to read it since you liked the "Naomi" character because that is my middle name.

    CarolNWong(at)aol(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
  11. I have heard some good things about this book so I'd like to give it a try! Thanks so much!

    jwitt33@live dot com

    ReplyDelete
  12. It sounds and looks good so I'd like to enter

    wyantebay@yahoo.com

    ReplyDelete
  13. Yeah, I think I'd have felt bad while reading this due to the large bag of fresh caramel corn I'm eating right now. :) But still, I can think of a few people I know who'd like this book (my mother-in-law comes to mind ...) so I'll definitely keep it in mind as a gift.

    Thanks for being on the tour.

    ReplyDelete
  14. This is not a book for me. I applaud you for reading and reviewing it. no need to enter me.

    ReplyDelete
  15. This books has an amazing storyline and I would love to read it.

    cenya2 at hotmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
  16. i hadn't ever actually considered picking this book up, but i do think the cover is absolutely gorgeous.

    while it doesn't sound like my type of book, it does seem like it might make for a nice fluffy book to enjoy by the pool. hope you didn't get sunburnt!

    ReplyDelete
  17. A mus tread! Thank you for his amazing giveaway!

    PelicanJL@hotmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  18. i love the cover of this novel...thanks for the chance to reaad this story.

    karenk
    kmkuka at yahoo dot com

    ReplyDelete
  19. Hey Audra! I jumped over here from The Burton Book Review and have added you to my RSS Feed. I love your review style!

    Anyway, this book has looked good to me for a long time so I'd love to win it!

    Thanks for the giveaway!
    Amy // amyismyfriend at aol dot com

    ReplyDelete
  20. I'm looking forward to read this book! And I lovee the cover! Is so pretty! Thank you so much for the chance!
    ilepachequin(at)hotmail(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
  21. Sometimes I pick up a book just because the cover is so great, this would be one of those times.
    kathleen.bianchi@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  22. I've heard good things about this book, and I'd love to read it!

    Shana S
    shanaelyse@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  23. I have seen a lot of reviews for this book. I would love to win it. Thanks for all that you do.

    Jill at
    www.seasidebooknook.com

    ReplyDelete