Forgetting Time (Guskin)

The Forgetting Time
Sharon Guskin, 2016
Flatiron Books
368 pp.
ISBN-13: 9781250076427



Summary
Noah wants to go home. A seemingly easy request from most four year olds.

But as Noah's single-mother, Janie, knows, nothing with Noah is ever easy. One day the pre-school office calls and says Janie needs to come in to talk about Noah, and no, not later, now—and life as she knows it stops.

For Jerome Anderson, life as he knows it has stopped. A deadly diagnosis has made him realize he is approaching the end of his life. His first thought—I'm not finished yet. Once a shining young star in academia, a graduate of Yale and Harvard, a professor of psychology, he threw it all away because of an obsession. Anderson became the laughing stock of his peers, but he didn't care—something had to be going on beyond what anyone could see or comprehend.

He spent his life searching for that something else. And with Noah, he thinks he's found it.

Soon Noah, Janie and Anderson will find themselves knocking on the door of a mother whose son has been missing for eight years—and when that door opens, all of their questions will be answered.

Sharon Guskin has written a captivating, thought-provoking novel that explores what we regret in the end of our lives and hope for in the beginning, and everything in between. In equal parts a mystery and a testament to the profound connection between a child and parent, The Forgetting Time marks the debut of a major new talent. (From the publisher.)



Author Bio
Sharon Guskin is the author of the debut novel, The Forgetting Time published in 2016.

In addition to writing fiction, she has worked as a writer and producer of award-winning documentary films, including Stolen and On Meditation. She began exploring the ideas examined in The Forgetting Time when she worked at a refugee camp in Thailand as a young woman and, later, served as a hospice volunteer soon after the birth of her first child.

She’s been a fellow at Yaddo, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Blue Mountain Center, and Ragdale, and has degrees from Yale University and the Columbia University School of the Arts. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two sons. (From the author's website.)



Book Reviews
Bold, captivating.... Guskin amps up the suspense while raising provocative questions about the maternal bond and its limits.... You'll be mesmerized.
People


For fans of Cloud Atlas and The Lovely Bones, this psychological mystery will have you hooked until the case is closed―or is it?
Cosmo


If you took to Lovely Bones, you'll be completely engrossed by Guskin's mystery, which meticulously weaves together a web of sympathetic, multi-dimensional characters through alternating chapters…Plenty of fodder for your next book club."
InStyle


(Starred review.) Readers will be galvanized by Guskin’s sharply realized and sympathetic characters with all their complications, contradictions, failures, sorrows, and hope. Deftly braiding together suspense, family drama, and keen insights into the workings of the brain, Guskin poses key and unsettling questions about love and memory, life and death, belief and fact.
Booklist


Even as crisis rocks unsettled four-year-old Noah and his single mother, Janie, once-promising academic Jerome Anderson receives a diagnosis that shuts down his future. Further revelation comes when all three meet a mother whose son has long been missing.
Library Journal


A single mom confronts the possibility that her troubled 4-year-old is the reincarnated spirit of a murdered child.... Guskin's debut novel tells a sentimental story with a murder mystery at its core, and it's interesting even if you don't go for the premise.
Kirkus Reviews



Discussion Questions
1. What is the significance of the novel’s title? What roles do forgetting and remembering play in the lives of Guskin’s characters?

2. How does the novel’s narrative structure illuminate its characters as the chapters move back and forth among perspectives? How does the tone in Janie’s, Denise’s, and Anderson’s chapters differ?

3. How did the case studies embedded within the novel affect your reading experience?

4. Most of Anderson’s cases are in Southeast Asia. Why do you think that is? How does the novel address the East-West cultural divide?

5. At the end of chapter 2, Anderson reflects: "Never expect. It had been the lesson of his life. "How has the unexpected shaped him? How has it shaped Janie and Denise? 

6. Anderson gives up prestige and respectability to pursue his chosen path. Does he remind you of other literary heroes? How does he fit in with or complicate the archetypal American striver?

7. In chapter 9, Anderson tells Janie, "Luckily, I’m not in the belief business. I collect data." Do you believe him? How do the scientific and the personal collide in his work?

8. In chapter 20, Janie recalls a Sweet Honey in the Rock song: "Your children are not your children. . . though they are with you, they belong not to you." Discuss the resonances of that song for Janie and for Denise.

9. Discuss the significance of the Emily Dickinson poem that Janie quotes from in chapter 39:

Tell all the truth but tell it slant—
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth’s superb surprise
As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind

10. Do you agree with Janie’s ultimate decision to let Anderson use Noah’s case in his book? How do you feel about using children in psychological studies in general?

11. What does Denise mean when she thinks, "Why were we all hoarding love, stockpiling it?"

12. In what ways do Janie, Anderson, and Denise change by the end of the novel?

13. When Janie and Anderson decide to take Noah to Asheville Road, do you think they should have told Denise they were coming? If you were Denise, how would you have responded to them? Would you have given Paul the possibility of redemption and forgiveness?

14. When Anderson begins to pursue his cases, he is looking for "not just nature or nurture, but something else that could cause personality quirks, phobias. Why some babies were born calm and others inconsolable. Why some children had innate attractions and abilities." Why do you think children come out the way they do? Do you think his theories are plausible?

15. Discuss Anderson’s meditation on consciousness:

If consciousness survived death—and he had shown that it did—then how did this connect with what Max Planck and the quantum physicists realized: that events didn’t occur unless they were observed, and therefore that consciousness was fundamental, and matter itself was derived from it?

Did that therefore make this world like a dream, with each life, like each dream, flowing one after the other? And was it then possible that some of us—like these children—were awakened too abruptly from these dreams, and ached to return to them
?

16. Have you had any experiences that changed your view of reality or what’s possible? Do you believe in life after death? How did your belief or disbelief affect your reading of this novel"?
(Questions issued by the publisher.)

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