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Before I Forget [Kindle Edition]

Leonard Pitts
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (86 customer reviews)

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Book Description

This powerful novel of three generations of black men bound by blood — and by histories of mutual love, fear, and frustration — gives author Leonard Pitts the opportunity to explore the painful truths of black men's lives, especially as they play out in the fraught relations of fathers and sons. As 50-year-old Mo tries to reach out to his increasingly tuned-out son Trey (who himself has become an unwed teenaged father), he realizes that the burden of grief and anger he carries over his own estranged father has everything to do with the struggles he encounters with his son. Part road novel, part character study, and part social critique, and written in compulsively readable prose, Before I Forget is the work of a major new voice in American fiction. Pitts knows inside and out the difficulties facing black men as they grapple with the complexities of their roles as fathers.

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In a seamless transition to fiction, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Pitts Jr. (Becoming Dad) delivers an unsettling, compelling first novel about secrets, illness, and the role of African-American men in society and family life. His absorbing story centers on unmarried father of one Mo Johnson, a faded 1970s soul star living in Baltimore, and diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's at the age of 49. Overwhelmed with regrets, and unable to confess his diagnosis, he sets out to make things right with two men long absent in his life: his teenage son, Trey, an unwed father facing armed-robbery charges; and his father, Jack, now ravaged by cancer. Mo and Trey take a cross-country road trip to visit Jack in his final days, each character a simmering cauldron of secrets, grief, and recrimination about to boil over. Unfolding like a film (big names are already attached to a possible movie adaptation), the novel takes readers to rural 1940s Mississippi, South Central L.A. in the swingin' 1950s, and present-day Las Vegas with immersing dialog and vivid, powerful imagery. Bold in spirit and scope, this is a rare, memorable debut that should net Pitts a wide new expanse of fans.



"Pitts is a master storyteller with a keen eye for both social trends and the human heart.” —Tananarive Due, American Book Award winner, author of Blood Colony

"[Before I Forget] is a beautiful, tragic and riveting work." —Marilyn Dahl, Shelf Awareness--selected as one of top ten novels of 2009

"In a seamless transition to fiction, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Pitts Jr. (Becoming Dad) delivers an unsettling, compelling first novel about secrets, illness, and the role of African-American men in society and family life.... Bold in spirit and scope, this is a rare, memorable debut that should net Pitts a wide new expanse of fans." —Publishers Weekly

"A gripping story of regret, revenge, unconditional love, acceptance, and ultimately forgiveness." —Atlanta Daily World

"Laced with taut dialogue and description in a journey of self-discovery and an intense multigenerational pilgrimage." —AOL Black Voices

"Tough and tender, Before I Forget is the kind of novel seldom seen anymore, one that tackles the big themes [of] life, death, [and] love head-on, and is at the same time a great read." —Miami Today

"Before I Forget is a man's story, and Leonard Pitts, Jr. tells it with all the truth and passion we don't always have the courage or confidence to express. I saw myself in this mighty book, strong and weak, but mostly human." —Eddie Levert, Sr., lead singer, The O'Jays, and author of I Got Your Back: A Father and Son Keep It Real About Love, Fatherhood, Family, and Friendship

"Leonard Pitt's powerful depiction of memory loss explores the complexity of the relationship between fathers and sons in an emotionally gripping, must-read journey." —Lyah Beth LeFlore, author of Last Night a DJ Saved My Life

"I have been reading Leonard Pitts's work for 30 years. he is a one-of-a-kind storyteller, as he proves again with Before I Forget. This is a terrific book!" —J. Randy Taraborrelli, author of Diana: Call Her Miss Ross


"Leonard Pitts, Jr. is the most insightful and inspiring columnist of his generation." —Tavis Smiley

"He refuses to be predictable or to rest on his considerable laurels. He is funny when you think there's not a smidgen of humor to be found, enraged at the very moment we thought we no longer cared, and he shakes us up just when we're so certain we have it all figured out. In other words, he makes us better for having read him. What a gift. In sparse, often electric prose, Pitts challenges us to be bigger than we thought possible, and then shows us how to get there." —Connie Schultz, Cleveland Plain-Dealer

"As a long-time reader and admirer, I find there is only one thing to question about Leonard Pitts being awarded the Pulitzer Prize: What took them so long?" —Bob Costas


"This is a book about black men and fatherhood. But it is also much more....Pitts writes with a sensitivity and an eloquence that illustrate how these problems transcend race and gender. A must-read for anyone who has ever had a father--or has not." —Miami Herald

Product Details

  • File Size: 609 KB
  • Print Length: 368 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1932841431
  • Publisher: Agate Bolden (March 1, 2009)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0056IJJOY
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #335,912 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
34 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Time Is Not On Your Side March 5, 2009
Before I Forget by Leonard Pitts, Jr. is a story of three generations of black men who are related by blood, but each struggles with their role of being a father and do not understand the heritage that bonds them and makes them who they are. The main character, Mo Johnson, a former soul star of the 70s, has just found out at age 49, he suffers from early-onset Alzheimer's, which will have him forget who he is before the disease kills him. This news, as expected, spins his world out-of-control. Trey, his son, at 19 also has a son, spends his time dreaming to be a rap star and has no means of supporting himself beyond what his mother and father provide to him, and he has just been arrested for robbery and murder. Jack, Mo's father, is dying of cancer and would like to see the son who has not spoken to him in 30 years, once more before he dies. While Mo's initial reaction to this request is no, the circumstances on why Mo refuses to speak to his father forces him to change his mind, as there are some things Mo needs to say before his memory is gone. So, Mo decides to embark on a trip back home to L.A. from Maryland, taking Trey with him as while Mo has supported his son financially he has not given him time and attention and wants to now spend time with his son.

Leonard Pitts weaves a wonderful story which is both painful and truthful, yet with compassion so the reader is able to view the lives of each of these characters and understand who they are. As Mo and Trey drive across country, the story unfolds in a series of flashbacks, alternating with action in the current time. The characters' voices for each of the generations were true to their times and I found myself smiling as I also heard the voices of the older and younger generations in my family.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Powerful Story November 5, 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a book that could easily have been hard to believe. James Moses Johnsons: three of them (grandfather, father, son). Okay, so that isn't unusual. But what about the father who writes a hit song titled "Prophecy" and the son changes it a generation later to "Profit See." Oh, yes, and add this ingredient: the grandfather is near death and wishes to have his best friend shoot him while the son has purchased a rifle to end his life because he has learned he is in the early stages of Alzheimer's and not yet fifty. Oh, yes, and the 19-year-old son has been arrested for his involvement in a robbery turned bad when a killing occurs. It has all the makings of a really bad black people soap opera.
But this book is in the hands of Leonard Pitts, Junior. I am one of thousands who have read his syndicated newspaper column for years. So when I heard he had written his first novel, I had to read it as soon as possible. And it has been a wonderful ride. The dialogue is so believable. The characters are also well developed and completely believable. In many ways this could have been a stereotypical black family. Men who are very distant fathers. The grandfather with the father. And the father with the son. And, oh, yes, 19-year-old Trey (James Moses III) has a 4-year-old son who lives with the unmarried mother. It is all there. And yet it is so well developed.
This is a brilliantly conceived novel that tells a very powerful story. I highly recommend it.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This is a story every father should read May 10, 2009
There isn't a blurb from Bill Cosby on the back of Leonard Pitts's first novel, "Before I Forget." But this is a cautionary tale Cosby would recommend.
In May 2004, the comedian spoke at an NAACP Legal Defense Fund banquet to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court Brown v. Board of Education decision. Cosby drew ire and hostility because he blamed the black community itself for school dropouts, crime and teen pregnancy rates.
"I'm talking about these people who cry when their son is standing there in an orange suit. Where were you when he was 2? Where were you when he was 12? Where were you when he was 18, and how come you don't know he had a pistol? And where is the father ...?"
It's a question any race could ask these days. One of every 10 teenaged Florida girl got pregnant in 2007: 43 percent were white, 33 percent black, 33 percent Hispanic. In 2008, 48 percent of inmates were black, 18 percent Hispanic, 7 percent white. But the point is not ethnicity or gender, the point is that there is an epidemic of missing fathers. Mothers are doing the best they can, but in many cases, they're working and doing the parenting, all alone.
Where is the father? Indeed. One in three children live in a one-parent household.
Pitts, who won the Pulitzer Prize in the same year, took up the drumbeat with his novel about three fictional fathers. The first, Jack Johnson, was angry because he was raped and beaten while in prison. He became a drunk, and beat his wife and son.
Jack's son, Mo Johnson, turned out to be a soul singer with the stature of Marvin Gaye, but he was always on the road while his son was growing up. An indifferent father, he saw the boy once a year.
Where was the father? Indeed. Absentee fathers beget absentee fathers.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Before I Forget May 5, 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Leonard Pitts, Jr. has the wonderful skill of taking a series of words and making an incredible sentence out of them. I have long been an admirer of the syndicated column written by Mr. Pitts--this esteem led me to purchase his novel, "Before I Forget." I was not disappointed--the author tells a story just as masterfully as he writes his opinions. The book is about three generations of African-American men--the eldest dying of cancer, the middle generation who discovers he has Alzheimer's, and the youngest who has participated in a serious crime--all with serious problems and all who need to be understood. It is a sad tale, but one that leaves the reader with a feeling of hope and redemption. I am a senior citizen who learned so many things from this wonderful story and look forward to more books from this talented and prolific writer. Don't let us down, Mr. Pitts. Keep on writing!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars eplain - bklyn
Pitts did a good job developing every character. Therefore I was intrigued to learn of their faith. But I also did not expect the outcome.
Published 2 days ago by Evelyn Plaines
5.0 out of 5 stars Informative
I needed this book for analysis in my critical issue course and i enjoyed it. The novel is revealing and its a good book to read. Read more
Published 2 months ago by IGBOJI
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read.
Before I Forget was one of the best books I've read this year. I just could not put it down.
Published 2 months ago by Kim J. Amis
3.0 out of 5 stars Before I forget
This is the 2nd Leonard Pitts book I have read. I must say that even though this book was more in today's time frame and realistic , I. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Maxine Wesley
5.0 out of 5 stars Two Thumbs Up!
There are books that you read that you just don't want to end. This was one of them. Although Alzheimer's is a depressing topic and even harder to work with these patients, this... Read more
Published 3 months ago by S. SPEIGHT
5.0 out of 5 stars Columnist turns author
I loved this story and was impressed by Mr. Pitts' style and ability to convey complicated feelings and situations through very straightforward prose. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Geology Maven
5.0 out of 5 stars As Always, Leonard Pitts, Jr. Hits My Heart and Brain
Leonard Pitts Jr, wrote a remarkable book, BEFORE I FORGET, about Black men taking responsibility. I am not a Black man, but Pitts amazing insight into growing human awareness of... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Sharon S. Isern
5.0 out of 5 stars A worthy read.......
Excellent story of love, regret, understanding , accepting responsibly, forgiveness and growth! Loved this story & would recommend it. Thanks
Published 3 months ago by Samantha Hayes
3.0 out of 5 stars Before I Forget
Depressing story line. Very sad story. It was different, though, which kept me reading it. You might enjoy if you like sad stories.
Published 3 months ago by Goin' Good!
5.0 out of 5 stars enjoyed
Really good book and interesting story line. I especially enjoyed the end where Trey grew up and became responsible and his mother came around
Published 5 months ago by dawn mcfadden
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