The Art of Forgiving, the debut novel by Camille Noe Pagan, is the story of two women who have been life-long friends and, through an unfortunate twist of fate, are forced to reverse roles. Marissa was the happy “beta” to her friend Julia’s” alpha” in their best friendship. Julia, not a very likeable character, has manipulated Marissa in so many ways – but, most importantly, she convinced Marissa out of the first love of Marissa’s life, kind of a “if I can’t have him, you can’t either” situation. Fast forward – Julia is hit by cab while on her way to meet Marissa – who sees the accident from their meeting spot. Julia suffers a head trauma and Marissa is launched into the lead role in their friendship.
There are so many good things about this book. First, Marissa’s current boyfriend, Dave. He is incredibly supportive and loving throughout all of the trauma and keeps it from becoming too much drama! He is a wonderful character, so well developed and so very endearing. Next there is the little girl – Estrella – in the running club which Marissa is wrangled into teaching. The club is intended to empower little girls with positive messages learned through running. Estrella is a pudgy – very non-athletic – little girl with a big heart and a very positive self image thanks to a very great mom. She endears herself to Marissa and, through her actions, teaches Marissa a thing or two about positive self images –
“Remember today’s less? Being a fast runner doesn’t matter. It’s how you feel about yourself that counts . . .”
Finally, there is the nameless woman on the bridge who, in this very poignant scene, teaches Marissa about the art of forgetting through references to swans –
“Swans will actually try to drown each other if they’re angry enough. People admire their beauty and their devotion, but they’re certainly not the animal whose social patterns we’d be wise to emulate. Unlike humans, they’re unable to learn the art of forgetting.”
To which Marissa thinks – “This comment renders me speechless. Julia may be hell-bent on making a mess of my life, but at least she has a legitimate excuse for holding on to the one memory I am desperate for her to forget. Meanwhile, I’ve been accumulating layers upon layers of anger toward her – not just since the accident, I realize, but for the past decade. Maybe, I decide, I am the one who needs to figure out how to let go.”
Those three were such strong points in this book that I was able to get over my incredible dislike of the character of Julia and enjoy this story – and it truly is a good story and a great message.
Dutton/Penguin provided a review copy of this book for this post. All opinions are my own.
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