The Forgetting Time Discussion Questions

Instructor: Shanna Fox

Shanna has been an educator for 20 years and earned her Master of Education degree in 2017. She enjoys using her experience to provide engaging resources for other teachers.

'Forgetting Time' is an intriguing journey through the connections of two families as they face daunting challenges of grief and growth. Use these discussion questions to help your high school students analyze character, theme, and symbolism.

Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin

Forgetting Time is the haunting tale of a reincarnated child and the intersection of two families - both seeking answers. It follows Noah and his mother Janie as they seek help from Dr. Anderson, who studies reincarnation. They find answers when they track down the Crawford family, who are still grieving the mysterious disappearance of their son and brother, Tommy. Use these discussion questions to guide your students as they explore characters, theme, and symbolism. You may choose to use them as a springboard for one-on-one conversations with individual students, provide a list of questions to student teams, or use them as a foundation for whole group discussion.

  • Note: The novel includes brief sexual themes, although they are not addressed in the discussion questions below.

Questions about Characters

  • In what ways are Noah and Tommy connected? Identify several examples of indications that Tommy is part of Noah. Do these similarities and shared experiences indicate reincarnation? Could there be any other explanation?
  • Janie faces many challenges as Noah grows up. What specific difficulties does she experience with Noah? What is different about him? Do you think that these challenges can all be explained by his connection to Tommy or are some not linked at all? Do you think that Janie does a good job of handling the challenges of being Noah's mom? Why or why not?
  • Why does Janie decide to seek help from Dr. Anderson? What other explanations and assistance has she sought before her interaction with him? Do you think she made the right choice by selecting Dr. Anderson to help her and Noah?
  • Denise and Henry have a troubled marriage. Do you think there were other problems, or can all their issues be attributed to Tommy's disappearance? Explain fully. Do you think they will get back together? Why or why not? Do you think Henry was wrong to leave his family? Why or why not? Does Denise have fault in the separation? Give details to support your answer.
  • Dr. Anderson faces challenges with his language. How does he cope with his aphasia throughout the novel? How do his feelings about his illness and his book change throughout the novel? How would you cope with an illness that affected your ability to communicate? Do you think he will ever complete his book? Why or why not? Which one qualifies as the greater contribution to society - his work with Noah or a published book? Explain your reasoning.

Questions about Symbolism

  • Noah has a debilitating fear of water. Water makes its presence known in many other aspects of the novel, as well. Beyond the literal drowning of Tommy, what does the water symbolize? How does it show the growth of the characters? The healing of the Crawford family? The deeper connection between Tommy and Noah? Mr. Clifford's guilt? Discuss allusions to water throughout the novel.
  • Finding Nemo plays in the background frequently during Noah's childhood. Why does the author choose to incorporate this movie into the novel? What does it represent? Why would Noah be both afraid of water and intrigued by a movie set in the ocean?
  • Baseball is another connection between Noah and Tommy. How does baseball serve as a symbol for their connection? What is significant about the connection between Tommy and his father regarding baseball? Why do you think the author chooses to include Tommy's father, Henry, in this aspect of the novel, although he is excluded from most other parts?
  • Images of and experiences with nature are interwoven throughout the novel. Identify some parts of nature that are used as symbols. Describe them in detail and explain their meaning. Does the author's descriptive language about nature enhance the novel? Which part of nature does she describe most effectively? How does she connect nature to the emotion and life experiences of the characters?

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