When I can open them again, I see a man leaning against a locked door. His hand falls down to the book at his side, and I watch his face empty, like when Mother pours water from a pitcher. When there is nothing left in the man’s face he wanders away, past a baby lying in its blanket in the middle of the street. I can’t see whether the baby has a book or not. And then I hear a woman crying, and even though I can’t make sense of my world, I do understand that this noise is different. The woman isn’t crying because she’s afraid she might die – she cries because she has lost her life . She has forgotten Everyone has forgotten. And the sound of it hurts my ears.
–The Forgetting by Sharon Cameron
The Forgetting by Sharon Cameron
In The Forgetting by Sharon Cameron, Nadia is a young woman living in Canaan, a city that collectively loses all its memories every seven years. To keep a record of their identities, they keep books as journals of their daily lives, writing down their professions, their family members, their homes – even details of their personalities so not all is lost during the Forgetting. Nadia, however, does not forget – she remembers the Forgetting and the madness that ensues – all the violence and betrayal that people act upon when they think that one will know what happened. When the story begins, the Forgetting is approaching, and Nadia is exploring the world around her, both inside the walls of Canaan and out, trying to understand why everyone around her forgets, and why she does not, and whether she can spare the ones she loves before the Forgetting is upon them.
The world development in The Forgetting was absolutely fantastic. It starts with an interesting concept: every seven years all of the citizens of Canaan completely lose their memories. This leads to a society that revolves around the protection of their books – the only record of their identity after the Forgetting. Individuals strap their books to themselves or carry it around in a pouch so it is on them at all times – and one of the most violent, unforgiveable crimes is to damage, modify, or even read someone else’s book. An individual who loses his or her book during the Forgetting becomes one of the “Lost” – the lowest caste, made up of those who have lost their identities. They serve the others, mostly in the bathhouse, and dwell in the slums. Specific rules are set for courtships, as a child born after the Forgetting whose father cannot be identified becomes one of the Lost as well. Relationships are complicated by the Forgetting (as the relationship cannot be remembered), and at least one case is known where children were accidentally swapped during the Forgetting. As the function of the Forgetting is the primary mystery of the book, I cannot comment on it much, but I was pleased to discover that the science was sound, and all of the mysteries of Canaan’s history are resolved in a satisfactory manner.
I feel like enjoyment of the book is heavily dependent on appreciation of Nadia as the main character. Nadia is painfully quiet, only speaking when absolutely necessary, quick to forget what she was talking about – in other words, a character that lives inside her own mind. Despite her rebellious actions, she is not a rebel at heart – Nadia only takes calculated risks, and goes to extensive lengths to hide her adventures outside the walls. I loved Nadia as a character because for me she was so relatable – I also am not much on small talk, and would prefer to keep my thoughts to myself. However, her hesitation to act and her hesitation to speak bordering on fear can sometimes be frustrating. Her own personal limitations are often a significant obstacle. I have read other books that use lack of communication as an obstacle, and I liked that more in this novel, since it was built into the character’s personality, but I can see that being frustrating to some readers.
In all, I would rate The Forgetting a 7 out of 10. It was an enjoying science fiction novel and I will definitely read the sequel, but readers that don’t enjoy science fiction novels would not get much out of this one, and the main character can make or break it.
My sister, the Effervescent Bookworm, also reviewed this book here. Check her out!