Book Review: The Art of Forgetting by Camille Noe Pagan

20 Jun

Genre: Women’s fiction

Publisher: Penguin Group USA (Dutton)

Pub date: 9 June 2011

Source: Publisher via NetGalley


Marissa and Julia have been best friends since high school. Marissa has been the quiet one, content to stay in Julia’s shadow since she made friends with her on the first day of school. Julia is rather bossy and demanding, but Marissa doesn’t question her loyalty. Then one day Julia is hit by a car and suffers brain injury. This makes Julia’s behaviour erratic and her memory spotty. Now Marissa has to take centre stage as she helps her friend navigate her new world.


This is not a completely typical tale of women’s friendship – where the relationship is tested. Because Julia’s personality and memories are affected, the way she and Marissa are with each other has the potential to change. Amnesia, especially when is affects someone young, is scary for the person suffering from it and for those around her.

Marissa has worked very hard to forget all the ways in which Julia ran roughshod over her all these years. Maybe because I haven’t experienced quite this kind of high school, I have less patience for it. This desperation to fit in somewhere was so important in high school that Marissa could not see when the best friendship stopped being healthy for her. And as an adult these roles continue.

Julia’s accident gives Marissa a chance to see their friendship in a different light. It was heartening to see her grow stronger, step away from this unhealthy dependence and make decisions for herself.

While the story overall was warm, filled with important messages about brain trauma and lessons on friendship, there were parts of it that had the flavour of an after school special. Marissa volunteers with a group of young girls teaching them self-esteem and training them to run a 5K race. Themes like healthy self image, eating, right, exercising, healthy friendships, dealing with bullying etc. are rather clumsily addressed in these class. Helping young girls with all these issues is a great thing, but I didn’t really think the detail with which it was addressed fit into the overall plot. Some of the dialog was a little stilted as well.

I enjoyed seeing both Marissa and Julia grow up. I especially liked how Marissa finally grew up and saw how good her life could be instead of chasing after adolescent dreams.


An easy read about how friendships can (and perhaps should) change as our lives and dreams grow. Recommended for fans of women’s fiction.

Rating: 3*

*See my Rating policy

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