“It begins in the small, affluent town of Fairview, Connecticut, where 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, struggles to pretend this horrific event did not touch her carefully constructed world.
As Tom and Charlotte 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.”
My Thoughts: After trying to write this review without spoilers more times than I want to admit, I am just going to have to say that this review may contain spoilers of some sort because I just cannot write about the impressions it made on me without discussing certain aspects of the book. Consider yourself warned.
All Is Not Forgotten touts itself as a thriller. In one light, this is a valid categorization. There is a slow build-up of evidence and tension that reaches a peak and fades away during the resolution. There is a mystery to solve in the form of Jenny’s attacker, and one gets to that answer following a very twisted path. However, as is so often the case these days, what the synopsis says the book is about and what the book is actually about are two very different things.
Your first inkling that something is not quite right is the narrator. In the beginning, he is this unknown entity who has taken an interest in Jenny and her family. We don’t know why he has done so, and his attention to detail is a bit disturbing while he remains this unknown figure. Later, the knowledge that he is their therapist should make you feel better, but his self-aggrandizing quickly grows old. More than that, it seems unnecessary and makes you question why he feels the need to tout his credentials.
The next troubling thought is the dawning realization that we never see the story through the victim’s eyes. All Is Not Forgotten may be about Jenny, her assault, and her struggle to recover those memories, but we never find out what Jenny is experiencing in any capacity. Nor do we get inside Tom or Charlotte’s heads from a first-person perspective or even a third-person omniscient point-of-view. We only know what they tell their psychiatrist. While he certainly believes they are incapable of hiding anything from him, human nature is fallible, and the possibility exists that they are indeed keeping secrets from him. Moreover, we lose the intimacy that would exist were we to get their side of the story without someone else editing or interpreting their words.
The nail in the coffin as to the fact that the book is not what it says it is about is when the dear, esteemed psychiatrist goes rogue in an effort to protect his family. Suddenly, the story is not about Jenny and her trauma but about the doctor’s need to justify himself. This discovery is not sudden, as there are plenty of hints to that point that indicate the doctor may have a somewhat altered role in the Kramer case than we initially think, but it is unwelcome because it takes a tragic story about a sympathetic character and turns it into a nasty psychological drama about a decidedly unsympathetic character.
All Is Not Forgotten was a novel that captured my attention quickly and never really let go. I was absorbed in the drama the entire time and only set it down in brief spurts when I needed a break from the strong emotions it was evoking in me. In that, it is an excellent novel. Jenny’s story is one that piques your interest from the very beginning. Her horrific assault, including the details, implied and otherwise, as well as the equally horrific treatment spark the need to protect and care for this lost and damaged girl.
However, upon finishing the store, I felt and still feel used. You think you are reading about one thing, only to have that story roughly hijacked by someone else with his own agenda. There is nothing remotely subtle about the story, including the mind games involved by the doctor and the author. As your awareness of his machinations and the impact they had on his clients, who he is sworn to protect no less, the feeling of betrayal by the author grows. The manipulation of the reader is so overt and so extreme that I feel downright dirty.
The sad(?) part is that in spite of – or maybe even because of – my strong reaction to the story as a whole, I want people to read it. I want others to form their own opinions and tell me whether I am justified in mine. I want you to experience Dr. Alan Forrester for yourself and see the story shift between disinterested third-party medical professional to highly vested unethical psychiatrist with his own agenda. After all, while All Is Not Forgotten may not be the novel I thought it was, the strong reaction I had to it tells me that Ms. Walker did something right.