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33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on August 7, 2012
The Sweetness of Forgetting moved me to the core. This is probably one of the best books that I have read in well over a year. Harmel is a gifted storyteller that weaves an amazing story with treads of love, hardship, secrets, second chances, heartbreak, baked goods and history. This story will urge you to learn your family's story, to embrace your family's history. I felt like I was on the journey with Hope to help uncover the truth of the past before it was too late. Harmel gives a voice to Alzheimer's through Rose's voice which is an amazing element to this novel. I absolutely loved EVERYTHING about this novel; the title, the cover, the story, the characters and the ending. This story has become a new favorite, by a new favorite author. If I could I would rate it 10 stars!!! I highly recommend it to EVERYONE, especially book clubs!
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on August 10, 2012
I have a couple of books by Kristin Harmel on my bookshelves but I've never read anything by her before. If all of her books are as touching as this one was, then I can't wait to read them.

This was such an emotional book--both happy and sad. I have always been drawn to Holocaust stories. My grandfather was Jewish and while I was not raised in any religion, I have always found myself interested in this period in history. I've done reports on the tragedy when I was in school and I've read tons of books on the subject- both fact and fiction. So I knew right away that I wanted to read this book. I've also always loved a good love story and this one was heartbreakingly beautiful. So I pretty much devoured this book. I couldn't put it down.

The background that Hope finds out about Mamie was just fascinating and engrossing. I was just so drawn into her past life. But then the current life of the three women, Mamie, Hope, and Annie, was just so real, in a sad way. Yet the book was heartwarming at the same time.

It slightly reminded me of a Nicholas Sparks book but with a intriguing history to it. This book was just what I needed right then and I adored it.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on August 10, 2012
I really enjoyed this book. My mother suffers from dementia, so I could relate to the feelings of the main character when dealing with her grandmother's "good" and "bad" days. I've also spent many years on the Cape, so I enjoyed the setting. I thought the premise was great. Imagine discovering a completely different family history than the one you grew up believing? What feelings of loss would you feel? What would you feel you'd gained? I've read other books by this author and I'm glad she's been able to branch out into another genre. I think you'll like this book (and the food)!
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on August 14, 2012
A charmingly compelling tale, skillfully told. The bakery's role in Hope's past, present and future adds an appealing extra dimension, but it was Mamie's personal story which really had me hooked. Kleenex required.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on August 13, 2012
Hope McKenna- Smith finds herself buried in stress; she has recently divorced and her daughter is blaming her for the breakup. She moved back home to Cape Cod to care for her mother who was dying of cancer and to care for her grandmother who has Alzheimer's disease. She has taken over the running of the family bakery and finds that she is about to lose the business if she doesn't find an investor or some ready cash soon.

With all of this on her shoulders a visit to her grandmother presents her with information that will rock the foundations of her life. She visits and finds her grandmother having a very lucid day and is asked to go to Paris to find out what happened to the people on a list. Who are these people? Her grandmother's family - taken by the Nazi's in WWII. Hope finds out that her grandmother is not a French Catholic immigrant but rather a Jewish girl smuggled out during the war. Her whole history changes in the course of a single conversation. What will she find in Paris? Should she even go?

What follows is a very moving story of one woman's search for who she really is and why the women in her family seem unable to love. As the horrors of the German occupation of Paris unfold for its Jewish citizens small miracles occur in the least likely places. And it's the bakery and the family recipes that help to lead Hope to answers she needs. The story was fascinating and I found myself racing to the end to find out how it would play out. I think these types of stories need to be told and told again so we, as a society don't forget the horror of Hitler's regime.

The characters were, for the most part believable. The only one that really irked me was Hope's daughter. This character seemed forced. Every other word out of her mouth was "like" and her attitude was too over the top rotten. Maybe teenagers are like this now, I don't know but every time she entered the story I cringed. The romance aspects were good and simple and just right. I enjoyed the tale and it had a great ending.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on August 13, 2012
Kristin delivers a beautiful and insightful story that takes you on a journey through Holocaust history, family and love from the past and present. The story draws you in as Hope uncovers generations of her family's history and how their loss and struggle brought them to where they are today. The Sweetness of Forgetting is a book you won't forget!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on August 10, 2012
I'm a big fan of Kristin Harmel's books, and I've been eagerly anticipating the release of The Sweetness of Forgetting. I wasn't disappointed! I loved how the story was told from multiple viewpoints in both the past and present. The book was extremely engrossing and the end left me in tears. Highly recommend!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on October 9, 2012
Let me start by saying that I read a lot of books and never write reviews for them, but after having read this wonderful book, I was compelled to do so. I want the world to know what a lovely story this is. The tale was spun so well and it truly touched my heart. While I wanted to get to the end of the book to find out what happens, it is the first time in a long time that I can remember being sad to have finished a book. I hope everyone enjoys it just as much as I did.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on August 12, 2012
I absolutely loved this book! It is a beautiful and heart-wrenching love story. It also taught me powerful things about World War II that I never knew and I feel blessed to know now--about the power of God--regardless of the road you take to find Him. This book is inspiring me to trace my ancestry and find out about my relatives. Thank you for this thought-provoking and utterly wonderful read!!!!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on November 18, 2014
I don't like giving a book 3 stars. I wouldn't usually bother to review one that I give such a low rating. But this one could have been so much better. This story had a lot going for it, enough tension to keep me turning pages, gripping emotional complexity, and two or three big problems to solve. The family history set in the Holocaust has immense implications and gave the story scale. I come away from this story feeling that there was potential here, and some very good writing, but too many flaws, which made the story fall flat.

In the beginning I had trouble getting past the stereotypical single mother with a rebellious preteen, but I kept reading, and it got better. For a while it got much better. There were problems to solve, a daughter to raise, a bakery to save, and a grandmother with Alzheimer's who was finally revealing a bit of family history before it would be lost forever. There was a race against time, which kept me turning pages. There were emotional revelations about the characters' backgrounds that held my stake in the story intact.

The family background set in the horror of the Holocaust I had no problem with. It's important to remember that very real horror, and it's so much a part of the personal, ethnic, and religious history of many of our fellow humans that we owe it to them to remain cognizant of the events. I also liked that people of different religious beliefs, Muslims and Catholics, came together to aid Jews in evading the deportations.

There's certainly enough in that historical background to provide a canvas for a story. A brilliant story. But this was not a brilliant story. There were lots of minor problems I won't go into, and some big flaws.

One big problem was the romantic content. Do I believe in love at first sight? Yes, I do! In fact I'm a romantic person at heart, always have been. I used to collect stories people told me about how they met their mates, and some of them were amazing. But the romantic ideals voiced by characters in this story in such a way that we're meant to take them seriously were the stuff of Disney fairy tales. At the same time, the one new, developing romance going on in the story is completely unconvincing. The biggest problem with it is the protagonist - more on her later. The two romances in the story seemed extreme, one exaggerated in its intensity, which conflicted with the grandmother's later actions. The other seemed almost nonexistent.

There was too much in the story that I found unconvincing. I wasn't convinced by the characters and their motivations. I wasn't convinced of the grandmother's reasons for keeping her secrets. I wasn't convinced by her lack of effort to find her lost love, by her depending on a husband who would of course have his own agenda, to do that for her.

The preteen daughter Annie's language seemed exaggerated. Some "whatever" and "like" I could believe, but there was too much of both and it seemed too habitual, as if this otherwise smart girl didn't hear what she was saying, had no control over her own speech. Her anger seemed exaggerated too.

I was a bit shocked by the idea expressed by Alain and Hope that the horror of the Holocaust could never happen here in the US. To me that's a dangerous notion. It could happen anywhere.

Finally, but probably the biggest problem for me was the protagonist, Hope, who seemed too numb, too passive, too negative, too willing to just let life happen to her. There wasn't that much trouble in her prior life to have made her this way. A cold mother? An inconsiderate spouse? Please! She also had grandparents who were always there, a daughter who was a sweet kid at heart, as she well knew, and a business she'd inherited that could have been so much more if she'd put some thought into it instead of laboring like a robot that couldn't veer from its programming. Especially after the revelations about her family in the story.

-- spoiler warning --

I could see if the grandmother had wound up this way after all she'd been through, but not the granddaughter. There wasn't enough in her character to make her so appealing to her love interest, Gavin, who seemed to hang on to something that wasn't there. What did he see in this - eh - woman who was so full of self-loathing, and where did that self-loathing come from? I found it difficult to believe this woman had ever aspired to be an attorney. I didn't feel that she grew much by the end of the story, either. She went grudgingly to Paris, learned a lot about her family, and she stood up for her daughter once, finally, but other than that she did nothing to stand up for herself or solve her own problems, and yet they were magically resolved by the end, which just seemed contrived. Her last rejection of the young man was downright cruel and came out of the blue, when she had finally seemed to be warming up to him. The final reconciliation seemed lukewarm for what had been described by another character as a great love. Milk toast, one-sided love, if you ask me.
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