Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Forget this

What moments in your life have you absolutely wanted to forget?

If you could, would you?

What if you had to?

Welcome to Nora James' world. In Angie Smibert's gripping debut novel, MEMENTO NORA, one little white pill can take away all your bad memories.

Here's a brief summary of the book:

Nora witnesses a horrific bombing on a shopping trip with her mother. In Nora’s near-future world, terrorism is so commonplace that she can pop one little white pill to forget and go on like nothing ever happened. However, when Nora makes her first trip to a Therapeutic Forgetting Clinic, she learns what her mother, a frequent forgetter, has been frequently forgetting.

Nora secretly spits out the pill and holds on to her memories. The memory of the bombing as well as her mother’s secret and her budding awareness of the world outside her little clique make it increasingly difficult for Nora to cope. She turns to two new friends, each with their own reasons to remember, and together they share their experiences with their classmates through an underground comic. They soon learn, though, they can’t get away with remembering.

Intense, right?

MEMENTO NORA releases on April 1st, and to celebrate, Angie asked a group of writer friends to participate in a blog tour where we share a memory we might not want to forget, even if it was a painful one. Here's one of mine:

It's a sunny July day; I'm nine years old and we've just moved into a new house. My sister, Paige, and I are home. She's 11 so I guess she's "watching us" while my dad makes his "rounds" at the hospital. It's only a few minutes from our house. Our mother is out at a horseback riding lesson -- she's ridden horses since she was a kid. She's learning to jump and leaves looking beautiful and cool in her riding jodhpurs and boots, etc. My mother is beautiful, for sure.

okay, this is really circa 1976 or 77 probably so I'm 12 or 13 not
9... but there's my mom. Beautiful, right?
And, yes, my dad had a lot of hair (still does), and please no comment on my aviator glasses
and, why, yes, two weird boys in the background, we STILL see you there 40+ years later, so thanks for that.

Anyway, my father comes home from rounds looking shaken. He calls us outside and sits us on the deck and tells us our mother has been in an accident.

"She was jumping," he says, "and the horse threw her off. She hit her head on a rock." These are the years before helmet laws, when her long, shiny black hair would fly out in the wind behind her as she galloped on her favorite horse.

"She's hurt?" one of us asks, as if not wanting to grasp it.

"Badly. They've closed her up, but there's swelling. . . right now, she doesn't know who we are. . . "

Something like that, the report goes something like that. My father is visibly distraught. The sun beats down.

"Is she going to die?" Me asking That one is definitely me.

"She might," my father says.

I may not remember the exact words, how events properly unfolded, but I remember the feeling that day, the frightening sights and sounds and smells of walking into that hospital room to see our mother, her hair chopped off, shaven completely on one side where betadine-stained sutures poked up. The look on her pale face -- one of utter non-recognition -- when my father said her daughters were here.

"Hi, girls," I remember her mumbling groggily. But it was clear she had no idea who we were.

Over the next few weeks, her head healed and her memory came back. If her sense of taste and smell were never quite the same, her gorgeous hair grew back quickly, well below her shoulders.

I cannot tell you how often I've called up that memory in my writing and my real-life parenting, to remember and understand both sides of how a child feels and behaves. Not just the terrified, longing side, but the resilient side too, the side that goes off to play, and giggles and has sleepovers, in the midst of the awful possibilities.

The memory of course had a good ending, but I wouldn't want to forget the painful roots where it began.

What about you? Do you have a hard memory you'd still rather not forget?

Okay - back to Angie's contest: One lucky winner will win this great PRIZE PACKAGE:

Signed copy of Memento Nora
Temporary tattoos and stickers
Your very own supply of forgetting pills. (Ok, they’re really Jelly Belly’s.)
And a glossy charm bracelet.

How do you win? All you have to do is leave a comment here on my blog AND leave a comment back on Angie's blog here. Angie will announce the winner on her blog on April 7th. DON'T FORGET to check back there ( to see if you're the winner!

Good luck. Hold on to your memories. And check out Memento Nora when it comes out.

- gae


  1. a. please don't enter me in the giveaway. I want someone to win who can wear that bracelet!

    b. Wow. Both your parents are beautiful, Gae.

    c. And so are you for writing this. Thank you! Now, I can't wait to come back and check this post over and over to see what others say.

  2. Gae,

    Good question, and even better writing in the answer. Thanks....things to think about here.


  3. My moment to forget came from high school. I went to a Catholic school and every year the seniors went on what they called a pilgrimage, which was a long hike (took all day, probably ten miles or so) followed by some togetherness and camping.

    As we walking, and I wasn't in the best shape, so I was near the last 1/4 of students hiking, one of the other students runs back past us. We asked what was going on, he said a girl in our group Kristin had collapsed.

    Like I said, it was a long hike, and I knew Kristin was struggling, she was at the way back of the hikers, a couple other stayed back to keep her company. They did offered her to get in the van at the last point we could, and she declined.

    Well, I got a couple bee stings to my head along the way, and had a bad reaction so by the time we got to the camp, I had to lay down, and I fell asleep.

    Later, our school counselor came in and said I had to come out to the group. I asked what was going on and she said Kristin had died, and our teacher, Mr. Fish, who had trudging through a creak trying to get her back to the road after she collapsed, had hypothermia and was in bad shape.

    It was a surreal experience, just waking up and hearing that news, almost like I was dreaming.

  4. Wow, what a beautiful mom and family! And what a memory, Gae. I had to read twice to realize it was yours, not part of the book (it's early, and I am typing this from my phone in the dr.'s office with sick kid), but wow. No wonder you have such insight to the mind of tweens and teens with a powerful memory like that to draw upon.

    Yes, i do want to be entered in drawing, lol. I know of a teen reader girl who would love to get this book, and the neat stuff with it.:)) (Kym's daughter, Taylor).

  5. oh man, megan, that is totally harrowing! Also amazing stuff to draw on in your writing. . .

    Tracy, make sure you comment to Angie's blog too. Just click on one of those links up there.

    Thanks Randy and Jody for stopping by. <3

  6. Wait, before I say anything about your hot mom, is this the "kid" page or the adult one?

    Just in case, I'll keep it clean and just say,if I had a time machine, my first stop would be your house, 1977 - where I would hit on your mom. Then a quick jump to the future to hit on you(let's see, you were 12 in 1977, so let's say, 1988, which would make you 21 (was gonna shoot for 1985, but that would be too pervy)

  7. Wow, Megan. Thanks for sharing that memory. You too, Gae.

  8. Wow, you and Megan both have such harrowing memories!! Gae, your mom is gorgeous. You look just like her (and your dad's no slouch either ;) ).

    I don't have memories like this, but I do remember when I was 19 coming back from college for a weekend at home with my folks. Only to find out that my mom had taken a trip out west and wasn't home. Only to have my dad break the news to me that they were getting divorced. I was in total shock. I'd just bragged to a group of friends the week before that my parents were completely in love. I had no idea. And then for my mom to take off in the hour of need was so strange. Okay, not a life/death situation, but it did mark me!

    xo Barbara

  9. Mike, I got used to guys hitting on my mom, way back in high school. :)

    Barb, that's a pretty intense memory. I could see how it would mark -- or shape -- you and your view of the world. wow. did you stay angry at your mom for long?

  10. Hmmm, well, it seems the anger only reared up 20 years later!! Weird, huh? But I'm over it now (thankfully).

  11. Wow such powerful memories but I guess they do shape who we become. I think a powerful memory that sticks with me is and this is pretty graphic: my mother suffering with mental illness attempting suicide and seeing my dad crying about it. Those two events happening to me at the age of 10 were the most frightening things even to this day and have stayed with me my entire life. Wish there were a way to forget.

  12. MW,

    how painful that memory is... i wish there were a way too. Thank you for sharing and welcome to my blog. Usually a lot lighter than this one.


  13. When I was younger, me and my brother stayed with my great-grandma for a few hours as everyone else when somewhere (Shopping maybe). My great-grandma couldn't get around very well and someone had to stay with her while everyone was gone. I might have been around 12, and Chris would have been 10. Anyway, the two of us were doing something in the other room and she was watching tv, when the phone rang. I remember her asking me to get it for her. I said "Ok" and started to get up to do so.
    She must not have heard me because she started going for the phone too. Just as I rounded the corner, she rounded the rocking chair, got caught on it and fell.
    She couldn't get up either. So I answered the phone and it was one of my great-aunts I think. I told her what happened and she called my mom and my grandma (still shopping), who then called me. After all that talking, I brought my great-grandma a pillow, and Chris and I waited with her for maybe an hour. The ambulance got there slightly before everybody else.
    It was super scary :( But idk if I'd want to forget it or not.