The Forgetting Time, by Sharon Guskin, is a well written book but with a plot that I struggled to get behind. As a reader it seems strange that I can accept the possibility of dragons or other magical occurrences in a story yet balk at the idea of reincarnation. It is a problem that many of the characters in this book shared.
Noah is a troubled child who seems to know things that he has never been taught. He is four years old, terrified of water, suffers recurring nightmares and is desperate to go home to his mama, despite already being in what he should consider his home with his mom.
When things come to a head at his pre-school his mom knows that something is wrong, that this is more than just an overactive imagination. She seeks psychiatric help but all that is offered is medication with potentially harmful side effects. In desperation she turns to Dr Anderson, whose life’s work has been an attempt to scientifically prove that certain young children retain memories of a former life, of being someone they could never have known.
Dr Anderson has problems of his own. He has been diagnosed with aphasia, a type of dementia affecting the brain’s language centre that will eventually render him unable to make sense of words and therefore communicate. He is writing a book about the cases he has studied and begins a race to complete his manuscript while he still can. He includes his analysis of many children around the world but his agent tells him that he needs to add a strong and recent American case that his readers will feel a connection to. When Noah’s mom, Janie, approaches him he agrees to take Noah on, a final case study that will enable him to complete his work.
Janie is horrified by what she considers the bunkum that Dr Anderson is offering her as a solution. She is also repelled by the idea that her beloved son’s suffering should be treated as just another study in a book. She wants a cure not a write up. However, with her money running out and Noah’s distress increasing she sees little alternative but to follow Anderson’s suggestions. Noah is to be taken to find the Mama he has been crying out for.
I read the first half of this book unable to shake off my scepticism. By the time I had reached the second half the pace had picked up and my interest in the outcomes for each of the characters kept me turning the pages. The inspiration for this story comes from fact. It would seem that my inability to accept possibilities is as limited as many of the American characters in the book, that this is in contrast to those from other parts of the world who do not require proofs and belief to simply allow that the workings of the world can be beyond current human comprehension.
I very much enjoyed the way Tommy’s backstory was presented. Here we had a family and community to get to know, plus there was a mystery to solve. The way Tommy’s family reacted to Noah was easy to empathise with. What exactly was going on seemed less important when the tension rose.
I suspect that my inability to get behind the basis of the plot shows a lack on my part. The author has produced a nicely written, considered and unusual tale yet I railed at the premise. I hope that others will be able to move beyond such prejudices and enjoy the rip and weave of the storytelling.
My copy of this was provided gratis by the publisher, Mantle.