Book Review: Before I Forget

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by Leonard Pitts Jr.

Publication Date: Mar 20, 2009
List Price: $16.00
Format: Paperback, 336 pages
Classification: Fiction
ISBN13: 9781932841435
Imprint: Agate Bolden
Publisher: Agate Publishing, Inc
Parent Company: Agate Publishing, Inc

Read a Description of Before I Forget

Book Reviewed by Thumper

*giggling* I’m going to love writing this review. A little while ago, I read and finished a wonderful debut novel, Before I Forget by Leonard Pitts, Jr. I LOVED IT!! I have not read a debut novel this extraordinary in years. The novel is the story of a former R&B superstar of the 70s, who discovers he is suffering from an early onset of Alzheimer. Before he loses life as he knows it, he takes his teenage son on a cross country road trip to visit his dying father. The novel tells a wonderful story but it focuses on another purpose. I loved it!

James Moses ’Mo’ Johnson is a has-been soul singer. Mo became famous in 1974 when he wrote and recorded his first major hit. But, that was then, this is now. Mo is almost 50 and he had begun to forget things. He is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, even though he is a relatively young man, too young to have Alzheimer, or so he thinks. As Mo struggles with coming to terms with his illness, his 19 years old son Trey is having major issues. Trey, along with a couple of his friends, robs a convenience store and one of his partners kills the owner. Trey is soon arrested and released on bail. As if dealing with Trey is not enough, Mo receives word that his father Jack Johnson, who Mo has not spoken to in 30 years, is dying. Mo decides to take Trey cross country to get his ’business’ in order, with his son and his father.

Before I Forget is absolutely, positively amazing! It’s an ass wiper! Not only did Pitts use a subject, Alzheimer’s disease, that I don't come across in novels often; but Pitts managed to accomplish the feat of writing a book with a message that strikes the perfect balance blending a story with a message. Many of the authors I’ve read who have tried to do this fails miserably; either the message is too prominent in the story making it obvious that the author is trying to preach, or the story is dominant and the supposed message is MIA. The manhood message was so deftly and smoothly incorporated in the story, I did not mind reading a message story. Before I Forget is a marvelous novel size parable. I applaud Pitts for doing a remarkable job.

The message manhood: becoming a man; accepting and performing the responsibilities of a man, and teaching our sons what a man does and how a man behaves is refreshing and on point. Oh yeah, it’s that deep. The beauty of the novel is that each of the male characters in the book, not just the Johnson family, displays different levels and aspects, positive and negative, of manhood. I’m kinda stunned at how Pitts was able to accomplish this.

The characters; from the main characters Mo, Trey, and Jack to the supporting ones, are well developed. The characters not only seemed to walk and breathe air, but they all evolve. None of the characters, well one, are in the same place, mentally or emotionally, at the end of the novel as they were at the beginning. They had to grow as men or Pitts would not have been able to pull the novel off.

I wanted to jump up and down, but I stopped myself just in time, when I finished this novel because Pitts knows how and when to use a flashback. Flashbacks should be used sparingly. When used at the proper time and is the proper length, flashbacks can be a beautiful thing. Here lately, I have been reading books where authors and their editors don't have the slightest clue as to how to use flashbacks. Pitts is not one of those authors. In Before I Forget, the flashbacks are informative and provide richer details to the story. If I rule the world, I would twinkle my nose and make a copy of Before I Forget materialize before every author that have pissed me off with their improper use of flashbacks, with a note on the book saying, Read and Learn!

I highly recommend Before I Forget! The book is fabulous and unforgettable. I know I won’t forget it when I have to compile my 2009 Best Book List at the end of the year. I am putting Pitts down on my ’authors to watch’ list as well. If his first book was this incredible, I cannot wait for his next one. 

Read Agate Bolden’s description of Before I Forget.

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