The Forgetting Time Summary & Study Guide

Sharon Guskin
This Study Guide consists of approximately 81 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of The Forgetting Time.
This section contains 751 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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The Forgetting Time Summary & Study Guide Description

The Forgetting Time Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Quotes and a Free Quiz on The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin.

The following version of the book was used to create the guide: Guskin. Sharon. The Forgetting Time. Flatiron Books, 2016.

Janie Zimmerman does not know how her life turned out the way it did. Overworked at her architectural firm and still grieving over the loss of her mother, Janie spontaneously takes a trip to Trinidad for her 40th birthday. She meets a handsome stranger at the hotel, and the two have an immediate connection. They make love on the beach and nine months later, Janie gives birth to Noah and becomes a single mother, just like her own mother was.

Four years later, it is clear that something is very wrong with Noah. Terrified of water and haunted by nightmares of drowning, Noah refuses to bathe, letting Janie only clean him with antibacterial wipes. Noah’s daycare complains about his smell and the fact that he talks about inappropriate subjects at school—subjects that Janie cannot understand how he knows. Teachers suspect child abuse, and one psychiatrist suggests that Noah could have schizophrenia. Desperate and quickly running out of options and money, Janie meets with Dr. Anderson, a psychiatrist specializing in child reincarnation studies.

Prior to meeting Janie, Dr. Anderson was diagnosed with aphasia, a form of dementia that causes a person to forget his or her words. Ironically, Dr. Anderson is trying to write a book at the time of his diagnosis, and he struggles with finishing his words even as he forgets them. When Janie reaches out to him, the doctor is thrilled, as Noah could be the American case that sells his book.

While Noah is having a nightmare about drowning, Dr. Anderson talks to him and learns that the boy remembers a past life. He lived on Ashville Road and his name was Tommy. Further investigating brings Janie and Noah to the doorstep of Denise Crawford.

Denise lost her son, Tommy, seven years ago when he disappeared on a bike ride. Haunted by her son’s disappearance, Denise has been living in a fog ever since. She medicates herself into numbness, and works at a nursing home where the only comfort and real human connection she feels comes from the simple contact of washing her patients. Her other son, Charlie, recognizes how unhappy his mother is but he cannot do anything to help her. When Janie and Noah arrive at the Crawford residence, Noah immediately recognizes his, “other mother” and runs towards her, although Denise has difficulty recognizing her son in this blonde boy.

When no one’s watching, Noah slips out the backdoor and into the community of Asheville Road, until he finds the house of Paul Clifford, the man who accidentally shot Tommy seven years ago and threw his body down a well. Since that day, Paul, too, has been living in a fog. Plagued by guilt, Paul drinks away the memories of that day, and the thought of the skeleton rotting in his backyard well. When Noah shows up on Paul’s doorstep, all of those memories come rushing back to Paul. He confesses, finally releasing the secret he has held so deeply inside for seven years.

After overhearing Noah and Charlie talking in the tree house, and catching a glimpse of the lost look in Tommy’s eyes, Denise accepts that Noah is her son reincarnated. She holds the boy to her, and when he is taken to the hospital for an asthma attack, Janie struggles with sharing her son with his new mother.

After Tommy’s body is recovered in the well and the boy is given a proper funeral, the characters in The Forgetting Time feel like they are actually healing. Noah asks for a bath at the end of the novel, proving that he has cured himself of his debilitating water phobia. Denise and Charlie seem to really be communicating for the first time in seven years, and there is even hope that Denise will salvage her marriage with Henry. Dr. Anderson, too, finally feels like he is coming to terms with his diagnosis. Finishing his book has become less of a priority for Dr. Anderson, as he is now driven by the thought of helping a single child.

At the novel’s conclusion, Dr. Anderson has taken a vacation to a beach in Thailand, and Janie and Noah arrive home at their Brooklyn apartment. The two of them crawl into bed, and for a moment, they are not Noah and Janie, but simply mother and son.

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