The Art of Forgetting

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A moving and insightful debut novel of great friendship interrupted. Can the relationship survive when the memories are gone?

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, ...

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The Art of Forgetting: A Novel

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Overview


A moving and insightful debut novel of great friendship interrupted. Can the relationship survive when the memories are gone?

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.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In Pagán's uneven debut, diet editor Marissa Rogers is driven but lacks confidence, thanks largely to her appearance-obsessed mother. When a brain injury changes her best friend, Julia, from beautiful, independent alpha woman to needy, cat-obsessed, purple-clad shut-in, Marissa's life takes a turn as well. A recovering Julia is intent on reuniting Marissa with Nathan, the college sweetheart that Julia personally coerced Marissa into dumping. Though Marissa has often thought about Nathan, she has a fine relationship with Dave, a reliable workaholic. As Julia's change creates distance between these two old friends, Marissa grows closer to her religious sister, Sarah, who helps her navigate her relationships. Meanwhile, at work, Marissa is forced to fend off the barbs of an ambitious editorial assistant, a plot line that feels tacked-on in order to give Pagán a chance to reveal the toil and tedium behind the glamorous veneer of magazine life. Though it's not without humor, Pagán's prose feels stale and clunky, and moments of revelation seem pat, easy, or implausible. (June)
Library Journal
Pagán's debut novel explores the fantasy of pondering the what-ifs in life. Marissa and her best friend, Julia, have a rapport and dynamic well established since high school, where Marissa unconsciously let her gorgeous and well-liked friend shine because of her own lack of self-confidence. However, when Julia is suddenly hit by a car and sustains a brain injury that affects her memory and personality, both women are faced with how their past decisions and actions have unknowingly led them to the present. Specifically, Julia regrets her role in Marissa's breakup with Nathan, who was seemingly the love of her life. When Nathan reenters their lives, the friends must confront the bigger question of how to move forward and learn to forgive. VERDICT This page-turner with original, likable, empathetic characters and an identifiable theme will attract readers who enjoy intelligent novels about women's friendships.—Anne M. Miskewitch, Chicago P.L.
Kirkus Reviews

In an underweight debut, needy Marissa learns to love herself and take control.

Marissa Rogers' emotional barometer is stuck on self-doubt. Undermined by her mother's constant criticism and bullied inmiddle school, she has spent years disbelieving she's worth it. At college, could cute student Nathan really be in love with her? AtSveltemagazine in New York City, where she works as diet editor, can she really be as highly-regarded as her boss says? Does Dave—the handsome, kind, patient corporate tax attorney she's dating­—really want her to move in? This constant state of "Who, me?" can be tiring for the reader. Supposedly Marissa's BFF Julia is the one solid spot of equality and mutual dependence in Marissa's life, except that the old Julia, who forced Marissa to give up Nathan for the sake of their friendship, is gone, after a traffic accident delivers a personality-disordering brain contusion. Pagán's rom-com ticks the boxes for empathy, good humor and empowerment but is light on originality. Will Nathan attract Marissa back? Will her pushy assistant undermine her? Will she find a better job, get engaged and lose those pesky last ten pounds? The answers are as predictable as the questions.

A pleasant but transparent primer on self-esteem.

Glamour.com

“Beautiful … a must read!”

Chicago Tribune

“A quietly compelling literary debut … about the power of friendship and the importance of forgiveness.”

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780525952190
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 6/9/2011
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Camille Noe Pagan's work has appeared in dozens of national publications and Web sites, including Fitness, Forbes.com, Glamour, Self, and Women's Health. She lives with her family in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

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Interviews & Essays

J. Courtney Sullivan, author of Commencement and Maine (on-sale June 14, 2011, Knopf), interviews debut author Camille Noe Pagán, author of The Art of Forgetting (on-sale June 9, 2011, Dutton).
Interview

J. Courtney Sullivan, author of Commencement and Maine, speaks with Camille Noe Pagán about her debut novel, The Art of Forgetting:

J. Courtney Sullivan: The Art of Forgetting is about two friends who are at times too close, and how their relationship is impacted after one of them is in an accident and suffers a brain injury. How did you come up with this idea?

Camille Noe Pagán: I'm a journalist by trade, and two and a half years ago, I was assigned a story about brain health for Women's Health. One of the physicians I interviewed pointed out that people take supplements and follow special brain-enhancing diets—yet drive recklessly and don't wear helmets when they're biking, in spite of the fact that traumatic brain affects more than a million Americans each year.

I began combing through medical literature about brain injury—specifically how seemingly "minor" head injuries, such as a concussion following an automobile accident, could profoundly affect a person's memory, cognition, and personality. The research was so engrossing that I wasn't content to simply cover it as a journalist, and within a few weeks I'd put together what would become the plot for The Art of Forgetting.

JCS: How did your own friendships influence Forgetting?
CNP: Many readers will probably assume when it comes to friendships, I'm more like Marissa—passive, willing to go with the flow. For the most part, that's true, and I've definitely been in friendships where I was steamrolled by the other person. (No surprise, I channeled some of that hurt into Forgetting!)

The truth is, though, Forgetting was more influenced by my good experiences than my bad. My two closest friends—both of whom I've known for more than half my life—have celebrated with me during the best of times and have cried along with me during the worst. They've taught me so much about what it means to be a true friend, and I thought about them constantly as I was writing this story.

JCS: Your book contains a lot of factual information about the brain and traumatic brain injury. How did you research it?
CNP: I started by interviewing several neurologists and reading every study on the subject that I could get my hands on. Midway through writing the first draft, I realized I needed even more information than I already had, so I interviewed a few more neurologists and began spending time in online chat rooms for brain injury survivors and their families and friends. At one point, I was so immersed in brain injury research that I began catching and correcting mistakes in Wikipedia entries on the subject—a fun little tidbit that I worked into Forgetting's plot.

Interestingly, when I told two of my friends about the novel's storyline, they were shocked: both of their childhood best friends had suffered brain injuries that had contributed to the disintegration of their friendships! This confirmed for me that while my novel was fictional, it was rooted in truth—and my friends' insights also helped me significantly in revising later drafts of Forgetting.

JCS: After Julia's accident, she becomes unlike the charismatic (and often demanding and selfish) person she's been most of her life. The idea that our personalities are so subjective is really thought-provoking. Did this change the way you thought about yourself, and others?
CNP: It really did. We think that we can control the people who we become, when in fact much of our personalities are beyond of our control. One small change to a single square inch of brain tissue can render us a different person, sometimes permanently.

JCS: What do you hope readers will take away from this book?

Forgetting gave me a better understanding of just how complex friendships are: like marriage, both parties are usually involved in damaging or disintegrating the relationship, even if it appears that one person is to blame.

Ultimately, The Art of Forgetting's message is that friendship is an ongoing choice. Although Julia and Marissa's friendship was uneven at best, Marissa chose to be passive and follow Julia's lead. In order to move on, she had to come to the realization that she played a part in their fractured past—and forgive not just Julia, but herself, too.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
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Sort by: Showing all of 15 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 9, 2011

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    Masterful examination of friendship

    Is your best friend perfect? Probably not. Evidently you love her anyway or you would have abandoned the friendship long ago. The Art of Forgetting explores the twists and turns in a friendship that is less than harmonious, yet essential for one's well-being. Self-deprecating Marissa and self-centered Julia have been friends since they were fourteen. Although they show their love in very different ways, Julia and Marissa need each other to the extent that their friendship becomes an addiction. Both women are flawed, yet they remain bonded. An accident leaves Julia, a dancer, with Traumatic Brain Injury. While she recuperates their solidarity is tested and strengthened in ways neither Julia nor Marissa understands. The book is aptly titled. New and long-held hurts are best forgotten. Julia punches Marissa with unflinching, hurtful honesty (a side effect of a frontal lobe injury). Both have issues over a man they tangled with in the past. The sheen on their friendship has been tarnished by the past and tested by the accident, but they manage to move past the old issues and form a new bond. Marissa, who suffers from a constant need to be rescued and buoyed up by her friends, uncovers a positive self-image that can't be taught. The plot element of coaching an after-school running team comes out of the blue, but is well-utilized in Marissa's discovery that she is the only one who can help her believe in herself. Author Camille Noe Pagán regularly publishes features about women's health in various national publications. The Art of Forgetting marks her debut in fiction. Pagán admits that fiction is a great departure from journalism. After a day of writing articles dealing with hard science, she spent her nights writing her novel. Writing fiction felt to her "like a wonderful escape; I loved sitting down and digging into my characters' lives." A specialist in scientific inquiry, the author consulted medical journals, medical experts in brain injury and entered chat rooms for first-hand perspectives from people with Traumatic Brain Injury. She provides resources for TBI at the end of the book. Readers looking for perfect characters to emulate may be disappointed by The Art of Forgetting. The book will appeal to those who have worked hard to earn personal growth and forge strong relationships. The book is a courageous examination of flawed human beings coping with a disturbed equilibrium. The jacket cover is luminous. Are we looking at a dancer taking her last bow due to her brain injury? Or, perhaps, the image is that of one woman or two attempting to hold themselves together against all odds. The Penguin Group provided the advance review copy. The opinions expressed in the review are unbiased and wholly those of the reviewer. Reviewed by Holly Weiss, author of Crestmont

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 1, 2011

    Harsh beginning, uplifting end

    I had a little difficulty getting into this book, but I am so glad I did! The development of the main character, Marissa, completely brought me into her world. When she was on the verge of each decision, I was on the edge of my seat. Well written and worth it...and I like happy endings.

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  • Posted August 22, 2011

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    a satisfying and memorable read

    Marissa and Julia have been best friends since childhood. Marissa is a smart, quiet girl with a conciliatory nature. She has always battled with her weight and lack of self-esteem, and her relationship with Julia makes her feel needed. Julia, on the other hand is gorgeous, charismatic and possessive. They are opposite in character but inseparable as friends. Now, ten years later, they are living their dream of living in New York city-Marissa as senior editor of a glossy health magazine and Julia as a publicist for NYC Ballet. Their relationship changes suddenly, though, when Julia is hit by a cab and suffers a traumatic brain injury that affects her memory and alters her personality.

    The Art of Forgetting is a novel about friendships and defining who we are through them. When Julia brings up the past, trying to reunite Marissa with her first love ten years ago because of the guilt she feels at having separated them years ago, Marissa is forced to confront her decisions both past and present. Ultimately, Marissa discovers her strengths, her beauty, and appreciation for what she has in her life.

    I liked Marissa right from the start, with her insecurities, her loyalty and devotion, and her kindness. The whole brain injury setting was fascinating and the author even includes resources on traumatic brain injury at the back of the novel, stating that each year an estimated 1.4 to 1.7 million people in the US will suffer a brain injury. Truly a sobering statistic.

    I also liked Julia, with her "joie de vivre", inability to commit in relationships and her possessiveness. My heart ached for her as she struggled to cope with her accident and the changes it brought in her life. The equilibrium of her relationship with Marissa was jolted by the effects of this accident but as with all close friendships, both Marissa and Julia discover a new level of their relationship through forgiving and forgetting-the foundation of any strong friendship.

    I found this novel refreshing and thought-provoking. It made me appreciate the wonderful friendships in my life, from my husband to my closest girl friends. The serious topic, the setting, the evolution of the characters and the theme of forgiveness and moving ahead made this a satisfying and memorable reading experience.

    Note: This book includes a few f-words.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 17, 2011

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    A Must Read!

    Marissa Rogers and Julia Ferrar became the best of friends from the first day they met their freshman year in high school. Julia, the queen bee with a good heart, helped Marissa to acclimate to her new surroundings and made her school experience, which had to this point been riddled with teasing and embarrassment, a little more enjoyable. They quickly became inseparable and gave to each other what they couldn't seem to get anywhere else. For Marissa, she now had someone to boost her self esteem instead of constantly putting her down like her own mother did. For Julia, she had someone who really listened to her and kept her sometimes selfish and pouty nature in check. This sweet but egocentric personality naturally placed Julia as the leader of the relationship, and Marissa was just fine with that. Their friendship was the most important thing in her life, and if sacrifice is what she needed to keep it running smoothly, then so be it. Even when Julia asked Marissa to sacrifice her first love, Nathan, during college, a request that almost had Marissa standing up to her best friend, she acquiesced. While she was heartbroken, she moved on with her and Julia's plans to graduate, move to New York, and start their new lives as ballerina (Julia) and someday editor in chief of a big magazine (Marissa).

    Julia and Marissa are living their dream when Julia is accidentally hit by a cab. While her body seems to sustain little harm the accident has caused a severe head trauma. Julia's memory is now sporadic and as unpredictable as her temper, and even her voice is nothing like the old Julia. She has different tastes, from colors to clothes to even a new love for cats, and is prone to migraines and speaking with no social filter. Marissa is now thrust unwittingly into the driver's seat of their relationship and soon learns she is going to have to expand and grow beyond Julia if she is going to get through this terrible ordeal and help either of them move on.

    While Julia moves in with her parents in Ann Arbor, Michigan and works on her recovery, Marissa begins to develop some new friendships and improve some old ones she had often left neglected while concentrating on Julia and her needs. Her relationship with her boyfriend, Dave, continues to grow stronger and she even takes the big step of moving in with him. She agrees to coach a running program for girl and soon learns that these young girls are teaching her as much about self esteem and growth as she is supposed to be teaching them. While she begins to sort out the issues in her own life as well as keep her friendship open with Julia, Julia throws a curveball at her by bringing Nathan back into the picture and trying to convince Marissa that he was the one she was meant to be with. Marissa cannot help but wonder if Julia might be right about Nathan, even if her ways of going about it are wrong. Could he be the proverbial one that got away? If so, what does that mean for Dave, a man who gives her such stability and love that she cannot seem to imagine where this great man has come from?

    With her best friend no longer able to help her through the tough times and who is actually making her life even more complicated, Marissa is on her own to figure out what is right for her. She must make her own decisions and decide what life she is meant to live. Finally forced to be the leader of her own destiny, she learns that she is much stronger than she ever imagined she could be.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 28, 2011

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    Enjoyable novel about friendship

    Marissa Rogers has lived in the shadow of her best friend, Julia, for as long as she can remember, and she is just fine with that. Marissa does well for herself as the editor for <em>Svelte</em> a health magazine, while Julia is a publicist for a ballet company in New York. Though Julia is extremely self-involved, Marissa has always stuck by her. Their friendship has weathered many storms, but despite the bad times, their friendship has always managed to stay strong. When Julia is hit by a cab and suffers a traumatic brain injury, she returns to Michigan to recover and Marissa finds herself reevaluating her life now that Julia is no longer the Julia she knew.

    The book is told in both present tense, and through a series of flashbacks, giving the reader a glimpse at the history between Marissa & Julia, and is very well-written. The characters are real and believable, but I found myself extremely frustrated with Marissa at times for putting up with Julia's behavior. This book is perfect for anyone who loves "Chick-Lit", and stories about female friendships. Though at times cliche', the book was enjoyable and I was satisfied with the ending.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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