Reading a Ward Just novel is like sitting down to a meal of your favorite comfort food. The writing is both simple and elegant and, most importantly, nourishing for the reader's soul. In an era of glitz and 700-page novels, Just writes in a style reminiscent of Fitzgerald and Hemingway. His audience cares about his characters, who are involved in life-impacting events to which many readers themselves can relate.
FORGETFULNESS is Just's fifteenth novel. While the author is not a household name, his literary accomplishments suggest that he certainly should be. Previous works include ECHO HOUSE, a National Book Award finalist, and AN UNFINISHED SEASON, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. FORGETFULNESS is a worthy companion to these earlier books. It is a thoughtful novel intertwining questions of justice, mercy, friendship and patriotism into a strong and meaningful story.
While the main character is American expatriate and artist Thomas Railles, the opening scenes of the novel are presented through the eyes of his wife, Florette. She has gone for a hike in the mountain region near their home in France, but then falls and injures her leg. Four men discover Florette and kidnap her, ultimately murdering her in the woods. Florette's death is presented through her words and thoughts. Throughout the opening chapter Just increases the anxiety that Florette must feel as she recognizes that her would-be rescuers have instead become her assassins. Her death is not simply the unspeakable act of madmen; the French government labels her murder "a terrorist act."
Florette's death occurs while Railles is holding an informal reunion with two friends, Bernhard and Russ, from his youth. The men are more than friends --- they are longtime employees of the CIA who have used Thomas on occasion as a spy. Indeed, Thomas initially fears that Florette's death is an act of retribution for some previous act of espionage. Bernhard and Russ promise Thomas that t