"Many of our best writers... are grappling with 9/11 and its fall-out; Just's take may be the best yet." Entertainment Weekly
“[A] riveting examination of personal loss and political criminality… Just’s Forgetfulness is haunting, clarifying, and imperative." Booklist, ALA, Starred Review
"Superb—as suspense, as theater, as psychological warfare...[Just] is as seductive a raconteur as ever." Kirkus Reviews
"[Just] sets his journalist's eye on the ethically fraught war on terror....an emotionally charged narrative." Publishers Weekly
"A heartbreaking tale that is as contemporary as today's newspaper headlines and as timeless as the most profound classic tragedy." Bookpage
[Just]'s a master at blending the personal and political. Forgetfulness gets at the heart of terrorism and revenge. USA Today
Forgetfulness is a wonderful addition to [Just's] distinctive and distinguished body of work.
The New York Times Book Review
'Forgetfulness' is an intellectual and emotional marvel of a book.
Written in a style both taut and reflective, this is suspense of the highest order.
Mr. Just's finest novel yet.
The Wall Street Journal
The first notable work by a major American writer to engage the moral and emotional complexities of the post-9/11 world.
Los Angeles Times
[Just’s] muted power has never been more unsettling than in his new novel.
The Washington Post
It's the novel that the people who felt cheated by Updike's book ['Terrorist']seem to have wanted.
The Chicago Sun-Times
Just makes no easy declarations in this often arduously analytical novel. Listening to "the evening news reporting casualties from Iraq . . . the details, unchanging from one evening to the next," Thomas knows that forgetfulness is not a reasonable response to assault, either personal or national. But he also knows the utter futility of vengeance. This is the paradox that wrenches him in this mature meditation on the personal, private grief that's cultivated in a global war on terror, the search for subtle moral truths in a climate of slogans and curses.
The Washington Post
Over almost 40 years and 14 novels, Ward Just has gathered critical acclaim, though perhaps not the wide-spread readership he deserves. Forgetfulness, his engrossing new novel about an American expatriate whose wife may or may not have fallen victim to terrorists, gives fresh cause for an introduction. Like Graham Greene or John le Carré, Just poses tricky political and emotional questions: Does personal tragedy license moral compromise? Is the War on Terror an open field for revenge? Thomas Railles, a painter and sometime spy, loses his wife, Florette, to four mysterious men outside their village in the French Pyrenées. Her body is found half-frozen, her throat cut. Weeks later, Railles's loyal friend and CIA contact, Bernard Sindelar, turns up a gang of Moroccans detained in Le Havre with pur-ported terrorist connections, one of whom, under questioning, mentions Florette's name. Sindelar presses Railles to wit-ness the ongoing interrogation, to medicate his grief with a dose of torture. Railles's ambivalence, his twin desires to avenge his wife's death and regain some equilibrium by putting it behind him, give Forgetfulness its depth of feeling. Railles wants certainty and closure-- two comforts the novel reminds us are scarce on the ground these days.
Ward Just’s America may still be naïve, but it is no longer exceptional. It’s an old country now and sometimes a tired one, a place where experience has shaded into exhaustion. Yet the art with which Just describes it remains as vigorous as ever. Forgetfulness is a wonderful addition to his distinctive and distinguished body of work.
The New York Times
Just has long observed the fault lines in human nature and a person's moral code. In his 15th novel (after the 2005 Pulitzer finalist, An Unfinished Season), Just, using an unlikely hero, sets his journalist's eye on the ethically fraught war on terror. Thomas Railles is a 65-year-old American expatriate portrait painter of moderate fame who lives with his French wife, Florette, in a Pyrenees village. When Florette goes for a solitary walk in the mountains and is killed by Moroccan terrorists, Railles blames himself for her death: two of his childhood friends now work in intelligence, and he has pulled several "odd jobs" for them over the years, including one that may have inspired this belated "payback." When he eventually faces one of Florette's killers, Railles must decide whether to avenge her death or find a different peace of mind. "Forgetfulness is the old man's friend," he muses, but he is aware of the irony. The ethical questions of Just's tale add moral heft to an emotionally charged narrative. Author tour. (Sept. 6) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Moody and ruminative, this novel traces the aftermath of the murder of the wife of an American painter living in rural France. Thomas Railles, an artist of some renown, is in his mid-sixties, living in an isolated village near the Pyrenees with his wife, Florette, a local of the region. One snowy evening, she goes for a walk in the woods and turns up dead. Thomas's boyhood friends, whom he has helped with undercover CIA assignments, vow to solve the mystery of his wife's death and soon turn up a small band of Moroccan lowlifes who were traveling through at the time of Florette's murder. Thomas is drawn back into the arena of international intrigue, terrorism, and torture when he visits the prison where the suspects are being held, and his idyllic artistic existence is shattered. Although the novel reads like a good mystery, the vibrant, thoughtful prose is meant to be lingered over and pondered. The story meditates on how our conjuring of the political world traps us like a self-fulfilling prophecy, and we must suffer the consequences. Strongly recommended for all libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 5/15/06.] Jim Coan, SUNY at Oneonta Lib. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
The wife of an American expatriate is killed under mysterious circumstances. Is revenge in order? That's the question posed by Just (An Unfinished Season, 2005, etc.) in his thought-provoking novel. An injured Frenchwoman is being carried down the Pyrenees by four stretcher-bearers. Florette has spent all her 54 years in the village below, but the men are not locals. Smugglers? Refugees? They're on a mission and Florette, met by chance, is a distraction. They cut her throat and abandon her. She will be found by her husband, Thomas Railles, an older American, a portrait painter, and his lifelong friends Bernhard and Russ, CIA field operatives who have used Thomas to do small jobs, nothing violent. Good detective work and Franco-American cooperation lead to the arrest of the four in Le Havre. They are Islamists and mercenaries. Thomas reluctantly watches their interrogation through a two-way mirror. Their leader, Yussef, is Moroccan. A younger guy (his son?) is beaten bloody with bastinados. Thomas spends time alone with Yussef and is tempted, momentarily, to use the bastinado himself. These 40 pages are the heart of the novel, and they're superb-as suspense, as theater, as psychological warfare. Thomas concludes that seeing his wife's killers has not helped him. The story winds down with Thomas living alone in Maine. The author is as seductive a raconteur as ever: companionable and worldly in an unaffected way. Many elements are familiar from his past work: the American painter living in France (Ambition and Love, 1994), the spies and secrets (take your pick). The big secrets here involve Thomas's neighbor, an ancient Englishman who was a WWI deserter, and a Spanish communist probablykilled on Bernhard's orders (Thomas feels complicit). What's new is a sharper tone regarding the US, which Bernhard sees as "spoiled, peevish." A blind 9/11 casualty is also a loudmouth and bully, starting a fight in the village cafe; the Englishman's great-niece is a hard, flag-waving American matron. A novella enlarged beyond its natural length, but still vintage Just.