Just as there are fast-food purveyors and five-star gourmet restaurants serving essentially the same purpose, – supplying food for hungry people – there are fast-read books and five-star sensualist offerings. Books in this latter category refuse to let you race through them; rather they demand your time and attention, forcing you to savor them.
If I Forget You is definitely in that latter category, as though it were chained to your ankle like a boat anchor. Opposites attract, just as opposites repel, and going in, one can never be exactly sure what force you may encounter, or how to cope with the subsequent turmoil. The author has won awards for his poetic writing, and it’s easy to see why when reading this book.
We have two narrators in two different time-frames. Henry and Margot in 1991 and 2012. It can be a tad confusing to turn the page and find yourself not only in the other person’s head, but also in a different era. Eventually, however, all the pieces neatly fall into place into a pleasing whole, just like an award-winning recipe.
In 1991, the two are around 20 or so, approaching college and life. Henry Gold has taught himself to be an excellent baseball player, reasoning that with this skill, he might earn a scholarship to attend college, which is otherwise beyond his reach. His life is changed forever when a professor at the upstate New York college tells him he is a poet.
Such a thought or possibility had never really occurred to him previously, but he takes to it like the proverbial duck to water.
Margot Fuller is his exact opposite – having been born with a silver service in her hand. (More than just one piece!) Her parents met at Bannister, therefore she also attends their alma mater. Margot has never had to struggle for anything, but falls under the spell of Henry’s poetry and inadvertently disrupts both their lives. She ends up married to a young man, totally approved of by her parents who are, of course old school, old money. In time, she has two children, a boy and a girl.
Eventually, we discover that Henry, (a first generation American of Jewish heritage, with not even the proverbial pot to his name) has also married and has a daughter plus a divorce. His first volume of poetry won a prestigious poetry prize, and all seems well.
And then, 21 years later, Henry and Margot meet up again by accident, but the next time, on purpose. Slowly, achingly, everything unravels when long-buried secrets are exposed to daylight. These are people so well fleshed-out, you can easily believe you know them, and you won’t soon forget them. The ending is appropriately ambiguous, but equally unforgettable, as well. A marvelous book for any season.
First and foremost, Kelly is a reader, then a writer and editor. She adores Regency-set novels, and cozy mysteries. Every now and then, however, she finds something else to enjoy if it has a great premise with characters who belong in there, and fabulous writing! She writes under her own name, as well as her pen-name, Hetty St. James.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Thomas Dunne Books. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.