By: Thomas Christopher Greene
Publisher: St. Martin's Press/Thomas Dunne Books
Publication Date: 6/14/2016
My Rating: 4 Stars
Deeply affecting and compulsively readable, The Headmaster's Wife was a breakout book for Thomas Christopher Greene. A critical and sales success, it has seen strong sales in hardcover and remarkable eBook sales of over 40,000 copies (without discounting). Now, Greene returns with a beautifully written, emotional new novel perfect for his growing audience.
Twenty-one years after they were driven apart by circumstances beyond their control, two former lovers have a chance encounter on a Manhattan street. What follows is a tense, suspenseful exploration of the many facets of enduring love. Told from altering points of view through time, If I Forget You tells the story of Henry Gold, a poet whose rise from poverty embodies the American dream, and Margot Fuller, the daughter of a prominent, wealthy family, and their unlikely, star-crossed love affair, complete with the secrets they carry when they find each other for the second time.
Written in lyrical prose, If I Forget You is at once a great love story, a novel of marriage, manners, and family, a meditation on the nature of art, a moving elegy to what it means to love and to lose, and how the choices we make can change our lives forever.
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A special thank you to St. Martin's Press and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Thomas Christopher Greene returns following The Headmaster's Wife (2014) with a moving epic love story—IF I FORGET YOU.
Written with lyrical poetic prose-as breathtaking as his fictional character, Henry Gold; Greene, follows a timeless forbidden love, torn apart by family, social class, wealth, lies, and secrets. Love and Loss. Second chances?
At forty-years of age, Henry Gold is not a famous poet though he has won a few awards in his younger years, and has carried over into his teaching career. He is a teacher and has an ear for other’s work; the ability to discern a musicality that certain students posses and is able to nudge them in the right direction.
The only wish he had as a kid, in his neighborhood growing up, in the West End of Providence, RI the son of immigrants-- was to be normal and Catholic like other families. He recalls his mother saying to him, “Henry Gold, don’t ever let anyone tell you: You can’t do something.”
Her words haunt him, for it is the great failing of his life. Many years ago, someone told him how to do things, and he didn’t fight like he should have. He has regrets.
Henry is in New York and sees Margot outside the Time Warner Building. He loves his New York campus. Baseball gave him this gift as a student. In his sophomore year he declares his major as English. His heart was not in baseball; however, the sport gave him the opportunity. He loves assignments, wrestling with words loves playing with structure. Each poem is a tiny puzzle to be solved.
He sees her on the street with the pigeons. She sees him. She flees in a cab, she is gone. He runs after her. The love of his life.
Margot is unhappily married to Chad. He is forty-five years old, well in his prime and still mid-level at Goldman. Her kids are grown. Alex is in third year at Wesleyan University and Emma at boarding school in Connecticut. Emma will be off to a summer camp in Maine. Alex to the city for an internship at a major publisher. Her life is at a turning point.
She comes from a wealthy family and a robust trust fund. Her parents are seasonal New Yorkers with winters in Tucson, Arizona and summers on the Vineyard. Lately Margot considers painting again. Art was the only subject she ever really liked; however, she has harbored her love of painting like a secret. Painting gives her pleasure.
Flashing back and forth from twenty-one years earlier—1991 in college, to the present 2012, we hear from Henry and Margot’s point of view. College at Bannister. Everyone knew Margot Fuller. From different social classes and walks of life. He had never met anyone rich before. Thomas Fuller, the board of trustees, her father. A tragedy. The letter. She had never met anyone like Henry.
Henry had never stopped searching for her. The idea of her, the essential memory of her, has been his one constant truth, like a poem he has committed to memory and holds always in the back of his mind. Has she been under his nose all these years?
He cannot think of anything but her. He knows only one way to love a woman and that is completely. Margot was his love. They straddle two worlds.
Henry decides the following day, he will go to Vermont. He doesn’t have class until after the weekend and the idea of his cabin is what he needs to lift his spirits. Vermont was his Polish father’s place. His mother had been born in Warsaw, grew up in Queens, and lived in Providence. He loved spending summers in the area and purchased a cabin when he turned thirty-four, after his father’s death.
He had married, now divorced after his wife Ruth’s affair. He has a nine-year old daughter, Jess. The life with Margot was cut short. From different social classes, there was an incident twenty-one years earlier. He was forced by her family to end things. He has not seen her since, until the previous day.
Margot can’t stop thinking of Henry. She has to see him. "What she does not like adulthood: every interaction seems to bring with it a history, a context, and nothing is simple."
She will find him and sees his photo on the NYU faculty page. His biography. His debut collection of poetry, Margaret, won the Yale Younger poets prize. Margot (Margaret) – for her, the dedication, “for you, wherever you are.”
Margot has never met anyone like him before. Can they go back? Choices were made. There is hurt, regret, and secrets. Can he forgive her? A weight she has been carrying. Courage to face the past in order to move forward. Is she strong enough to stand up to her family and choose the life she wants?
"If poetry is the search for significance, then the stubbornness of love must be its fullest expression."
Greene writes with passion—with stunning imagery, haunting yet beautiful lyrics; art, and romance. An emotional moving love story, and well developed characters readers will root for.
I loved Henry- he can write me a poem any day of the week!I'll take the cabin in Vermont, as well.
June Top Reads
About the Author
Thomas Christopher Greene was born and raised in Worcester, Massachusetts, to Richard and Dolores Greene, the sixth of seven children. He was educated in Worcester public schools and then Suffield Academy in Suffield, Connecticut. He earned his BA in English from Hobart College in Geneva, New York, where he was the Milton Haight Turk Scholar. His MFA in Writing is from the former Vermont College.
Tom has worked as an oyster shucker, delivered pizza, on the line in a staple factory, as a deputy press secretary for a presidential campaign, the director of public affairs for two universities and as a professor of writing and literature. Since 1993, Tom has resided in central Vermont.
In 2003, his first novel, MIRROR LAKE, was published to critical acclaim. His second, I’LL NEVER BE LONG GONE, followed two years later and his third, ENVIOUS MOON, was published in 2007. His fiction has been translated into 11 languages and has found a worldwide following. His writing has been called incandescent and poetic and has been nominated for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. His first novel was named by Waterstone’s in the UK one of the 30 books to be rediscovered, alongside books by authors Kurt Vonnegut, Jose Saramango, Alice Hoffmann and others.
In 2006, after years of writing full time, Tom was asked to lead one of the MFA programs at Vermont College where he had graduated from and had previously served as a senior administrator. Shortly thereafter the university that owned the campus announced that the historic 1868 campus was for sale to developers and the three nationally acclaimed MFA programs (MFA in Writing; MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults; and MFA in Visual Art) were in danger of closing. Tom mobilized the college community and the larger community in central Vermont to create a nonprofit that could buy the campus and the three academic programs. In two years, with his business partner, Bill Kaplan, Tom raised $13.5M in capital, built a national board of trustees and developed a strategic plan and an infrastructure to manage and run a new academic entity. On June 23, 2008, Vermont College of Fine Arts became the first new college in Vermont in over 30 years. It was the fastest college in the 125-year history of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges to achieve accreditation. Tom was named the college’s founding President, a position he still serves in today.
In the seven years since its inception, Tom has led Vermont College of Fine Arts on a mission to become a national center for education in the arts. Its writing programs enjoy top national rankings, and he has started new programs in graphic design, music composition, film, writing and publishing, and an MA in art and design education. Today, under his leadership, Vermont College of Fine Arts has arguably a greater influence on American Arts and letters than any small school since the heyday of Black Mountain College almost a century ago.
Tom’s fourth novel was published in March 2014 by Thomas Dunne Books / St. Martin’s Press. Inspired by a personal tragedy he experienced while creating the college, THE HEADMASTER’S WIFE is his most profound and moving work to date. His fifth novel, IF I FORGET YOU, will be published in June 2016, also by Thomas Dunne Books. Website