book review: THE FORGETTING TIME by Sharon Guskin

For the month of October my virtual book club read this book and it seemed many who did thoroughly enjoyed it.

It is a book about reincarnation and ties in the story of a boy who remembers a past life he might rather forget with a doctor who researches these cases. He is starting to forget due to the onset of aphasia.

I really appreciated this novel. It was engaging, intriguing, and unusual. It didn’t blow me away but it was… good.

my ‘ooh… past lives!’ face

best bit

There was real insight into the emotions associated with grief and loss but especially with the kind of grief that is sort of suspended when the person lost hasn’t been declared dead.

“She’d thought she’d put it away, thought she had moved past it, around it – not forgetting, never forgetting, but taking the long way around so she could get through, so she could make it though each day, but she was wrong because it had always been there, playing out on the screen of her soul. She had never left it. That day. [The day her son was discovered missing]” p. 237

I also really enjoyed the beginning. Some novels can take time to get into but Guskin wrote quite simple events with colour and imagination. Janie’s one-night stand that conceived the son who experiences the past life memories was both fascinating and amusing. Our introduction to Dr Anderson is at the doctor’s appointment where he first receives his diagnosis. It is a scene that is packed full of insight into the way humans interact and deal with bad news, how we respond to sympathy, how impossible it can be to understand one another, and how completely unpredictable we are.

“They sat for a moment in silence, looking across the desk at each other, as if they were on opposite sides of a raging river. What strange creatures other human beings are, he thought. It’s amazing anyone ever connects.” p. 22

worst bit

It’s tricky to answer for this novel. There isn’t anything negative to say about the novel itself but I guess part of the story that was difficult to read was the story of the boy who had committed the murder of the past life boy (confused?!). It is always heartbreaking when you see someone self-destruct as a result of their circumstances and the bad choices they make in a single moment.

what i learned about the world

Well, I never realised there had been research to this extent on reincarnation, though that seems ridiculous when I think about it because where did the term itself appear from and I did know that many people out there obviously believe it. I had never heard of nor explored the evidence that has been written and put in books.

I’m not entirely sure what I think about it myself. But it confirms something I do believe in – that there is a spiritual dimension to humanity.

I saw a psychologist a while back who had encountered research about people’s experiences of death before being resuscitated. There were many similarities with a number of cases regarding what they saw and felt (this was the moment I got the idea for my first short story Four Minutes Dead). This research had moved him from being an atheist to saying that if you don’t think that there is another dimension of consciousness you are naīve. I like books like these that bring scientific research to the fore that we may otherwise not interact with.

what impacted me

I don’t think I’d heard of Dr Anderson’s degenerative disease, aphasia. It attacks the part of the brain that remembers words. Eventually he wouldn’t be able to remember any words or speak any and then it would also impact his mobility. I can’t imagine what it must be like to be diagnosed with such a disease.

Hope is such an important factor when you’re sick and to be told about your body’s inevitable decline in such a way. Well, as I said, I can’t imagine it.

Dr Anderson almost comically says:

“Is there like after Shakespeare?” p. 19

He can’t imagine a life in which he can’t remember Shakespeare let alone quote it! This has made me reflect on the utter privilege we have of such an abundance of literature at our fingertips. I am not living in a culture that is censored or limited in this regard.

I am ever grateful for this and wish to soak up as much of it as I can.

BOOK CLUBBERS! What did you think?

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Add Yours
  1. Lucy Beaken

    Sorry for the late response for the last book. I enjoyed reading the book, i definitely wanted to finish this one and it gripped me, despite knowing part way through where it was going. It was interesting reading about a different topic I’d never thought about before.
    I didn’t enjoy the emotions it brought up I suppose. I’ve found having a child of my own has brought a new dimension to reading stories about other children, so it was quite heart breaking to read about all the children affected.
    It made me realise how death can be helpful in some ways to allow people to grieve fully and move forward, it seemed Denise was stuck for years with the not knowing what happened to her son.
    After reading the book I instinctively starting thinking about when my daughter grows up, and how I could protect her from various life situations (it hasn’t helped that Ive also been watching ‘the missing’ on BBC!). It could consume you with worry and cause you to be over protective, not letting them do anything (like walking to a friends when they are old enough!). Parenting dilemma- how to get a balance!! I’m now beginning to understand why my mum always used to say ‘I worry about you a lot’.


    • Where I Write

      That’s true, Lucy. It is probably one of the biggest challenges of parenting – that need to encourage and allow independence whilst handling our intense protective instincts! Interesting how the impact of books can change depending on what stage of life you’re in.


  2. Jo Bishop

    This is the first book I read with the book club, I sort of enjoying I found it hard going as I am used to reading light and fluffy books.
    I found the subject something quite challenging and hard going. Very well written book, very thought provoking I didn’t realise that they so much information on recarntion.

    I found the end difficult to read with how Anderson felt with his condition, and loss of his wife Shelia.

    Looking forward to the next book


    • Where I Write

      Jo, well done for getting to the end despite it being more arduous than you’re used to. Seems like that was a positive experience overall. I too didn’t find it an easy read as the scientific excerpts were written in that academic way that you can lose the thread of quite easily!


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