It’s rare that I read a book that offers something a bit different… whether it’s an unusual plot, surprising characters or creative prose.
All is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker does offer readers that something different. In fact I had to stop a couple of times in the beginning to check I wasn’t reading non-fiction. Because it could have been. Non-fiction delivered in an entertaining way! *
All Is Not Forgotten
by Wendy Walker
on July 12th 2016
Genres: Psychological Thriller
ISBN: 1250097916, 9781489210678
In the small, affluent town of Fairview, Connecticut everything seems picture perfect.
Until one night when young Jenny Kramer is attacked at a local party. In the hours immediately after, she is given a controversial drug to medically erase her memory of the violent assault. But, in the weeks and months that follow, as she heals from her physical wounds, and with no factual recall of the attack, Jenny struggles with her raging emotional memory.
Her father, Tom, becomes obsessed with his inability to find her attacker and seek justice while her mother, Charlotte, prefers to pretend this horrific event did not touch her perfect country club world.
As they seek help for their daughter, the fault lines within their marriage and their close-knit community emerge from the shadows where they have been hidden for years, and the relentless quest to find the monster who invaded their town - or perhaps lives among them - drive this psychological thriller to a shocking and unexpected conclusion.
This is very much the story of Jenny. Of her rape; her parents’ decision to try to assist her to forget the attack and move on; and – on failing to do so – the resulting attempts to recover her memories of the night in question.
However… we’re not in Jenny’s head. At all. Ever. She’s quoted – in police reports, second hand accounts and directly in interviews – but the entire story is delivered in first person (occasionally second) by someone who is initially on the periphery. It took some getting used to and for some time I wasn’t sure if the approach was clever or confusing.
Soon however, we can guess at who that person will be and it’s later confirmed that we’re in the head of her therapist – the person Jenny and her family turn to after it becomes obvious that her rape and, possibly even more so – the attempts to erase those memories – have left Jenny stuck.
As tidy as everything had become, a different kind of monster had entered Jenny’s mind and body, stealing everything good and putting in its place a gnawing anxiety that had become quite severe. p 34
Dr Alan Forrester is coincidentally already doing some work with another patient who was treated with morphine and similar painkillers – believed to assist in helping victims forget preceding trauma. Forrester believes we don’t necessarily ‘forget’ those events, but rather we misfile them in our memories.
Walker’s Author Note mentions that this science is all pretty new but it poses an interesting question nonetheless – whether (in general) we’re better to forget something horrific and move on; or deal with the fallout at the time.
Jenny’s decision to attempt to reacquire her memories coincide with a break in her rape case. New information comes to light and Jenny, her family and the police are keen for Forrester to play a role in helping to put her perpetrator behind bars.
However…. Forrester is a complex host. Seemingly objective in relaying much of the case, he ends up with a few secrets of his own.
The style of the narration is ‘first person minor’, in that – for the first third to half of the book – Forrester is a minor character. And sometimes he’s an annoying storyteller, rambling off on tangents which can be frustrating but later… ‘could’ have some relevance. Perhaps.
And for me anyway – Forrester became less likeable. The straight talking narrator was fine, but by the time he meets Jenny and her parents and sees himself as their saviour we indeed realise he seems to have a bit of a god complex and is wonderfully (and not in a good way) arrogant.
Indeed, he shares a little about his wife which left me agog. She is simple and sees things simply, he says. Fine, I think, that’s okay… but then… he describes her as not particularly skilled at any one thing and notes he feels intellectually superior to her.
I have encouraged her to pursue a master’s degree so we might engage in more sophisticated conversation. p 121
I know… WTF right?!
And later he comments on his son’s IQ which he says… he knew might be an issue when he married his wife. And my thoughts went from my undergrad psych meanderings of #narcissisticpersonalitydisorder or #messiahcomplex to #fuckingprick.
Of course having an outside narrator (even one with an agenda of sorts) gives us some insight into those who would normally be the central characters: Jenny and her parents; and how they independently (and as a family) cope with the rape and its eventual investigation.
I read this in a sitting because I needed to know what happened to Jenny.
I know some readers have found the rape scenes – or the replay of them – to be pretty graphic. Walker pulls no punches. And it could be contentious to many that – Forrester’s take on Jenny’s condition is that she’s less impacted by the rape than by the erasing of the night and those feelings from her memory. Indeed, Forrester mentions a group session, noting that Jenny does not identify with other rape victims, but more with another of his clients (Sean – a young war veteran suffering PTSD).
My thoughts on this book varied throughout. In parts I found the good psychiatrist so icky that I just wanted to stop reading. At other times it seemed the outcome was going to be obvious, so I wanted to stop reading. As it happened, I wouldn’t have picked the twists – as we’re not entirely privy to everything, though given clues – but ultimately glad I kept going.
Book-clubbers looking for something to read would appreciate this as there’s lots to talk about!
All is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker is published in Australia by Harlequin on 25 July 2016.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley for review purposes.
* Regular readers will know I hate non-fiction! 😉