A medical mystery that you won’t soon forget
Mature-content Rating: PG-13 (sexual content and coarse language)
Having you ever kicked yourself for forgetting something? Have you ever been in one room, and you leave to do something, but upon arriving, you forget what you were going to do. Maybe you open the fridge and just stare at it blankly before realising you have no idea what you are looking for. This a condition that effects us all to some extent, but for some it can be crippling. Standard every-day forgetting can be annoying, and sometimes humorous, but what happens if the problem gets worse? Standing with broom in hand in the middle of your living room, or grabbing a bagel on the run for breakfast, just to realize that you actually left one on the back of the toilet when you were brushing your teeth: these types of situations can be embarrassing, hilarious, and cause you to shake your head at such silly forgetfulness. Problems don’t arise when you forget little things like your kid’s birthday or anniversary (okay, maybe that could cause some problems…), but what if you forget you have children, or who your wife is? What if you can talk to someone, and half an hour later, not have a clue who they are? The Art of Forgetting is about a doctor, Lloyd Copeland, who is struggling with this very problem. To put it in the words of the author, Peter Palmieri, “Dr. Lloyd Copeland is a young neurologist who is tormented by the conviction that he has inherited the severe, early-onset dementia that has plagued his family for generations.” Because of this, he is working on a cure. However, it is not the medical or forgetful side of things that get in his way… just everything else you can think of.
There are certain core elements of writing that can be an author’s forte, and not many of us (if any) are gifted in all the areas that make up a book. Some are great at plot building, others write great prose, some can pen witty dialogue, and the list goes on. Considering Peter Palmieri, the final thing in this list is his strong suit (one of them at least). The dialogue was humorous at times, surreal at others, but all the time it was believable. The banter between characters was no just there to get the message of the story across or build the characters (although it did both of these masterfully). There was a sense of realism to every words between the “quotes” that draws the reader in with a sense that they are listening in (or participating) in a real conversation between friends, enemies, lovers, acquaintances, and any other relationship brand that comes along the way.
There is always room for back-story when it comes to characters. Sometimes the back-story holds incredible importance to character’s motivations, and sometimes it is the icing on an already delicious cake. There is not a lot of back-story reveal in The Art of Forgetting, but Palmieri does a good job with the scenes that are present. Too often, when telling back-story, author’s lapse into passive voice, and though it may be important to the story, the implementation is poor and thus leaves the reader unengaged. This in not the case with The Art of Forgetting. The past/memory reveals are both delicious and icing enhanced.
This book is listed as “medical suspense.” Yes there is medicine, and yes there is some suspense, but the real meat of the novel is in the drama. When I think suspense, I think thriller. When I think thriller, it is often packed full of action, ending chapters with so many cliff-hanger moments you can’t decide whether to throw the book across the room or keep reading because you… just… can’t… stop. The Art of Forgetting seems to have forgotten (see what I did there. 😉 ) that it is a medical suspense novel, spending more time with drama and romance than medical and suspense. This, however, is not a bad thing, because the romance is delightfully well crafted. In most suspense novels, it is the “suspense” (go figure) that keeps the reader going, but here it is the romance and character interactions that make the book unforgettable. However, have no fear. This is a medical suspense novel, and when the suspense eventually arrives, it is well punctuated and contrasted with the drama that you almost fall off your chair,heart screaming in your chest, fingers twitching, not wanting to put the book down. The better part of the book is very drama intensive which really plays into the thrill when things start happening to the characters the reader has learned to love through said dramatic excursions.
Once the thrills start coming and plot start to thicken, it keeps getting thicker and thicker until the soupy concoction before you is impossible to stir by hand. “At least it can’t get any worse.” That may be a fine thought, and though it doesn’t start raining in The Art of Forgetting when the reader starts thinking this, things certainly get worse. All at once, the world comes crashing down, and because the reader is so invested in the story and the character by the time this happens, it can almost bring tears to your eyes. Once the high of world-crashing is over, the book pulls you through an intense mood setting scenario. The very air you breath while taking in the words will be filled with the emotions of the moment, and a lump will rise in your throat with every crafted phrase.
With a book this good, the biggest problem was its length. It is not novella length, but it is not incredibly long either. Though this is not necessarily a problem, I felt like this book could have been even stronger with more building up before the climax. A few times I was thrown for a loop for some scenes completely skipped over, presumable to keep things moving/save time. The question is, why would you want to save time in something this good?
Though there were some back-story elements, and they were well done, I would have loved to see more. A lot more. If Lloyd Copeland is supposedly fighting off the family curse of early-onset-dementia, it would have been good to see more of this battle. The main facts are there, and the reader is not left questioning the motivations of Dr. Copeland, but we could have been drawn into the story more by a greater focus being given to Dr. Copeland’s past. I liked how character focused the books started out, and there was the odd scene thrown in for flavour, but once the plot gets going, the focus is taken off of the characters in favour of the “bigger picture.” I loved the characters, loved their development, cared for them, and because of this I would have loved to see more. The plot was good, but the characters are what sells this book, so more about them would be a huge plus.
The Art of Forgetting was an unexpectedly good read. I liked the cover art, the synopsis, and the prologue draws the reader right in. I had little knowledge of what to expect going in, and coming out the other end, I will not soon forget the magic in these pages. The plot is great, the characters and better, and the dialogue is wonderfully believable. If you like good drama, suspense, and characters that will make you laugh one moment and cry the next, this book is for you.
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