& r & If you could get back at someone who has done you a terrible wrong, would you? In Ward Just's new novel, Forgetfulness, Thomas Railles has just that opportunity. How should justice be served?
& r & Florette Railles knew she shouldn't have gone on a mountain walk alone, but she didn't want to spend another minute listening to boasts coming from her husband and his friends. She waved her hand and said she was leaving. Thomas had heard her, hadn't he?
& r & Now, with a broken ankle and frightened, Florette is at the mercy of four impolite men who are carrying her down the mountain. It's snowing, and she's so cold. Her mind wanders from this thought to that, and slowly, Florette freezes almost to death there on a mountain in the south of France, Then one of the men slits her throat.
& r & After Florette's body is found, Thomas plunges into darkness. Just one week before his wife's murder, his elderly neighbor and friend had died. Now Thomas, an accomplished artist, is also a widower, left behind with only his sketches.
& r & When four Moroccan men are captured by the French police, Thomas is invited to witness their interrogation. He asks instead for a chance to sketch the leader of the group, alone. He needs to spend some time, you see, with the man who was with Florette when she drew her last breath.
& r & Just focuses the revenge cycle on the moral quandary of one man. Self-righteousness leads to violence, to retribution, to more violence. Can or should Thomas Railles end the cycle? Just lays meaning on each word, every nuance, every small action in his characters, and while this gives you a clear picture of their anguish and pain, it also means that Forgetfulness isn't a fun afternoon's diversion. Reading his novel requires concentration, plenty of current-events knowledge, and a love of political intrigue.
& r & Bear in mind that Forgetfulness starts out slow and doesn't pick up much until about halfway through. Keep at it, and you'll be rewarded with a nice plot twist at the pinnacle of the story. (Thomas Railles has a past that's not entirely disconnected from terrorism, but not implicated in it, either. Just's quarry is the relativity of guilt.) If you're only seeking some light reading, however, forget about Forgetfulness.