The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin
Read Jan 7, 2016
Sharon Guskin became acquainted with the work of Dr. Ian Stevenson when she was passed a copy of Old Souls by Tom Shroder, a Washinton Post reporter. Stevenson was a professor at the University of Virginia Medical School for over fifty years. He research considered reincarnation, in particular the possibility that emotions, memories, and physical injuries in the form of birth marks can be transferred from one life to another. Guskin’s first novel uses this concept to explore a number of themes including the powerful bond between mother and child, the devotion of a mother to her child, the impact of the death of a loved one, the sacrifices one is willing to make to pursue research not embraced by colleagues, and the devastation of the loss of brain function from dementia type diseases.
We meet Janie, a single mom, and Noah, her lively four year-old and the product of a one night stand. Noah has always been a handful for Janie, but has becoming increasingly difficult to handle, refusing to bathe, experiencing terrifying dreams, and asking when he can go home to his mother. The situation reaches crisis mode when his daycare essentially kicks him out after he tells other student about playing with a gun–a .54-caliper Renegade rifle. Janie tries a number of doctors and psychiatrists and nearly relents to meditating him to treat a diagnosis of schizophrenia but instead turns to a psychiatrist she finds on the internet that has interests in children who recall details from previous lives.
We meet Dr. Jerome Anderson, a professor of psychiatry, who has chosen a career limiting research pursuit of reincarnation as demonstrated by children who recall past lives. He’s still in deep mourning for his wife who he lost to cancer the previous year when he gets his own tragic diagnosis–primary progressive aphasia–which will slowly rob him of his language cognition leaving him unable to communicate verbally or through writing. Funding for his research institute has been cut recently and he’s closed his office. He’s trying to get a book published on his research that is intended for the general public but his editor would like to see another American case.
Thus the needs of Janie and Anderson bring them together to consider and solve the mystery of Noah.
The story is told through three voices—Janie’s, Anderson’s, and Denise, a mother whose son Tommy went missing a number of years ago. In between the chapter Guskin provides excerpts from Jim B. Tucker’s book Life Before Life. In the acknowledgements we learn that Tucker is a real person and the book is a real book. He was an associate of Dr. Ian Stevenson at is still at the University of Virginia Medical School.
On the surface this is a psychological mystery. It does keep you turning the pages. In addition, however, as you read you begin to pause and consider a not only the themes noted above but as well as the concepts of mortality, how we spend our lives, and what happens before and after we are alive.