The Art of Forgetting: A Novel [NOOK Book]

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 ...
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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

From the Publisher
“Beautiful … a must read!” — Glamour.com

“This impressive debut is . . . (dare I say it?) unforgettable.” — J. Courtney Sullivan, author of Maine and Commencement

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

-Glamour.com
“Beautiful … a must read!”
-J. Courtney Sullivan
“This impressive debut is . . . (dare I say it?) unforgettable.”
-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: 9781101529096
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 6/9/2011
  • Sold by: Penguin Group
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 304
  • File size: 307 KB

Meet the Author

CAMILLE NOE PAGÁN is a frequent contributor to Glamour, Parade, Women's Health, Forbes.com, and O, The Oprah Magazine, among others. She lives with her family in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
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Reading Group Guide

INTRODUCTION

How well do you really know the people closest to you? What lengths would you go to protect them—and what if it required giving up someone you loved?

These are the questions haunting Marissa Rogers. A thirty–something editor at a glossy magazine, Marissa’s always played the beta to gorgeous, charismatic Julia Ferrar. And why shouldn’t she? While her life in New York City isn’t exactly the one she dreamed of when she growing up in Michigan, Marissa is content—or so she tells herself.

But when Julia suffers a memory–stealing, personality–altering traumatic brain injury, Marissa is forced to take the lead. As Julia heals, she begins dredging up old memories that Marissa would rather forget, including the fact that Julia once asked her to end a relationship with the man who may have been the love of her life (a revelation that threatens to unravel Marissa’s relationship with loyal, loving Dave). When Julia attempts to remedy the situation, Marissa must decide whether she wants to hold on to the past or create a better future—a future that doesn’t revolve around her friendship with Julia.

The Art of Forgetting is a story about the power of friendship, the memories and self–created myths that hold us back from our true potential—and most of all, the delicate balance between forgiving and forgetting.

ABOUT CAMILLE NOE PAGAN

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

A CONVERSATION WITH CAMILLE NOE PAGAN

Q. Julia’s accident is the impetus for action in this book. How did you go about researching brain trauma and its effects? What challenges did you face in writing about this topic? What inspired you to write about it?

I love novels about friendships and had always wanted to write one. I was working on an article about brain health when I stumbled on research about traumatic brain injury. Learning that our personalities, preferences, talents—even our voices—can be so dramatically affected by even a seemingly minor head injury fascinated me, and I began imaging the ways it might affect a woman my age. Before I knew it, I had come up with the plot for The Art of Forgetting.

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: one had suffered a brain injury herself when she was younger, and the other’s childhood best friend had a brain injury that had contributed to the disintegration of their friendship! 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.

Q. Like Marissa, you are also a journalist specializing in health and nutrition. What pressures do you see on a woman’s self–image within that industry? What conflicts do you see between your responsibility to the publication for which you’re writing and your identity as a woman?

As a freelance journalist, I have the ability to choose who I will and will not write for. That’s a great thing! No magazine is perfect, but I try to work for those that are conscious of the message they’re sending to women and girls. As a mother, my litmus test is: if my daughter was old enough to read this magazine, would I be okay with her doing so, or would this magazine diminish her self–esteem and provide her with potentially damaging information? If I wouldn’t want her to see it, then I don’t work with that publication.

Q. The Art of Forgetting flashes back between the past and the present. How did you go about building this story? What were some of your biggest challenges in constructing the narrative? What tips would you give to other authors writing their first novels?

Some people never focus on their past. I’m not one of them! For me, it was natural to write a story that used flashbacks, although it was undeniably challenging to keep track of all the little details and the timeline of Marissa and Julia’s life.

My advice to would–be authors is to write the book that you would want to read. Not what you think will sell, or that you think other people would prefer—the novel you would pick up on a bookshelf and wouldn’t put down again until you finished it. Do that, and the rest will work itself out.

Q. Marissa makes some difficult decisions toward the end of the book. What central message do you want your audience to walk away with? What do you think is the most important part of Marissa Rogers’ story?

Many readers have told me they were surprised that Marissa didn’t run away with Nathan. To me, it wasn’t just forgiving and loosening her ties with Julia, but choosing Dave that marked Marissa’s entry to adult life. I think Marissa ultimately reveals that it is often the hard choices— the ones that require us to abandon beliefs we’ve clung to for years, and even decades—that are the most rewarding, and the best for us.

Q. What are you working on now? Can we expect more from Marissa Rogers? What are some topics or issues you’d like to explore in future work?

Marissa may show up in future books, but right now, I’m very excited to be working on something different: a novel about four childhood friends—two men and two women—and how a series of events that occurred during their late teens influenced their lives in their mid–thirties, particularly in light of the fact that one of them has become famous. It’s a big departure fromForgetting—yet I’m again returning to the theme of how our friendships influence the people we become.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  • Who is Marissa Rogers? How would you describe her life when we find her at the beginning of the book?
  • Describe your reaction to Julia’s accident. How does it affect the story? How does it affect the mood of the novel? What does it do to your expectations about the story ahead?
  • How does the accident change Julia? How does it initially affect the relationship between Julia and Marissa? What do you think about how Marissa dealt with Julia’s personality changes?
  • In the flashback portions of the book, what more do we learn about the friendship between Julia and Marissa? How would you describe it? What does Marissa see in her relationship with Julia? How does Julia benefit from the relationship?
  • Who is Nathan, and what does he mean to Marissa? To Julia? How would you define Nathan and Marissa’s relationship? Would you have made the same sacrifice Marissa made? Why?
  • Would you describe Marissa’s relationship with her mother? Is it normal? How does that relationship affect Marissa’s sense of herself and her body?
  • What does Marissa gain from her participation in the Take the Lead program? What does she learn from the girls, especially Estrella? What does Marissa see in the relationship between Estrella and her mother, and how does it differ from Marissa’s own relationship with her moth?
  • What does Marissa learn about Julia’s intentions behind contacting Nathan? How does that complicate Marissa’s life? What do Julia’s actions say about her—and do you think Julia would have done this before her accident? Why or why not?
  • What life changes are Marissa and Dave embarking on, and how are those changes complicated by the events of the book? What does Dave offer Marissa that Nathan doesn’t? What does Nathan offer her that Dave doesn’t? Who do you think Marissa should have ended up with?
  • Marissa makes some crucial decisions toward the end of this novel. What is your opinion of her choices regarding her career? How do you feel about her decision regarding Nathan? Why did Marissa make the choices she made? How has she changed from the beginning of the book?
  • What is the future of Marissa’s relationship with Julia? In what ways did their friendship remain the same as it was before the accident? What do you think the author’s message is about friendship and our responsibilities within friendship?
  • Thinking back about the events of this novel, how does the book’s title apply to the themes in the story? What do these characters learn to forget? How do they benefit from this? How would you define the author’s message about our relationship with our past?
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Customer Reviews

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

    more from this reviewer

    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

    more from this reviewer

    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

    more from this reviewer

    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

    more from this reviewer

    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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