Author: Wendy Walker
All Is Not Forgotten, well there is a lot in that title that resonates because this book is one that certainly will not be forgotten.
To say I loved the story feels disingenuous because I can’t LOVE a story centred around an event so brutal and traumatic. I found the story to be fascinating and multi-faceted, it drew me in and held me captive even at times where the heartbreak of reading it had me wanting to put it down and walk away.
The storytelling method is brilliant, it gives an in-depth look at all of the characters and an insight into their psychological makeup that we otherwise would not have had. It takes a couple of chapters to work out who this seemingly objective observant narrator is, and how they fit into this most horrific story.
The story starts with the third person retelling of the brutal rape of a fifteen year old girl in the woods behind a house party. The party is attended by many of the teens in town and it is only a small town. The kind of town you don’t expect these things to happen in. This chapter, these events, are very hard to read and they could probably trigger all sorts in anyone who may have suffered any type of assault.
I don’t think that was the worst of it though really because Walker then brings a controversial (fictional) treatment into the narrative that uses drugs to erase traumatic memories. Jenny, the victim, is a minor so it is up to her parents to consent to the use of the treatment; which needs to be administered as early as possible after the trauma, before the memories take hold. Jenny’s parents want to do the best for their daughter, they want to do all they can to help her heal and move on so of course they sign her up for the treatment… how can removing the memory of her brutalization be a bad thing? Well, that’s a question we will have answered before we make it halfway.
Our objective narrator is a psychiatrist who is brought in to treat Jenny when it becomes apparent to all that the treatment she received directly after the attack hasn’t helped. Yes, it removed her memories of the attack but it didn’t take the emotions and that creates a whole new wealth of issues.
Dr Alan Forrester, our narrator, is the only practising psychiatrist in their home town of Fairview, and he volunteers a full day each week to treat mentally ill criminals in a level five maximum security institution. He is also working with a former Navy SEAL struggling in the wake of the treatment that removed his memories. All of these things are elements of why he was employed to work with Jenny.
Dr Forrester is great at explaining his take on the workings of the mind and the ‘filing’ of memories, the way the treatment is supposed to work and what it actually does. He is also quite good at working with patients to recover these memories, which has to be done very carefully to avoid creating false memories. Either way, the recovered memories are not admissible in court as the nature of the treatment makes them unreliable.
All Is Not Forgotten is the journey, told for us by Dr Forrester, of a family towards healing; because though Jenny is the victim of the attack the rest of her family are not immune to damage in its wake. There is guilt, there is anger and a need for revenge; and that’s just on the surface.
Dr Forrester takes on treatment of Jenny but he also starts treating her parents Tom and Charlotte, separately. He collects the stories of the Kramers through their sessions, and the wider picture through his liaison with the local police department. Everyone wants to see the rapist caught and brought to justice, to offer closure to Jenny but also to the entire town.
The slow unfolding of events, the relationships between all of the characters and the secrets being kept unfold slowly through Dr Forrester’s sessions and his recording of the conversations. There are some very interesting twists that I did not see coming that add to the tension and the suspense of the unfolding story.
All Is Not Forgotten is well written, the hooks are well placed and the pacing is steady. I was impressed with the in-depth exploration of memories and how they are made, the explanations of the treatments and then the way that Forrester goes about recalling these true memories and the explanation that went into how it all works, simplistically enough that it could be understood by everyone and not just those in the mental health industry.
Right from the beginning Dr Forrester tells us about his observations on truth and relationships from his years of experience as a psychiatrist, though he tries to keep it objective. He does enjoy relating these observations when he can directly relate them to what is happening in the story.
The characters are quite three dimensional for the most part and well developed, except where it was in the best interest of the suspense to keep them a little sketchy.
A thought-provoking, yet heartbreaking, story of deceit, degradation, suspicion and the desire to protect the ones we love. Equal parts fascinating and disturbing this is definitely going to stay with you long after the book is read.