Wendy Walker confidently strolls into the crime fiction arena with All is Not Forgotten, a novel that features authentic characters, clever misdirection, timely discussions, and just enough rebellion with which to seduce the reader. All is Not Forgotten is set in a well-to-do enclave in Connecticut. When a rape shatters the flimsy façade of safety and security within this community, one family and one doctor are at the core.
High school student Jenny Kramer is assaulted outside in the woods while her classmates party inside – either oblivious to what is occurring or heartless enough not to care. At the hospital, Jenny, her parents, and her doctors elect to have her take an experimental drug that will wipe out the memory of the event, thereby lessening the impact of post-traumatic stress on the child.
After time though, it becomes clear that the emotional confusion this lack of recall causes is just as damaging as the trauma itself. The Kramer family enlists the help of a therapist who has previously had success recovering these forgotten memories. Working with the entire family – Jenny’s mother suffers from low self-esteem, Jenny’s father has increasing rage about his daughter’s violation – Dr. Alan Forrester sets out to heal the Kramer family and in doing so, patch up the scars of this once idyllic community.
Wendy Walker makes the interesting choice to have the therapist serve as the narrator of the novel. In doing so, she is required to shatter one of the tenets of writing – show, don’t tell. Because Dr. Forrester is recounting the events and his sessions with patients, he spends much of the book telling us what happened, what was said, and analyzing this activity. As such, there is limited dialogue in All is Not Forgotten. This technique takes some getting used to, but ultimately is extremely effective and allows Wendy Walker to prolong the suspense. Some readers may find this way of telling the story manipulative, but few will be able to argue that it is ineffective.
The events of the plot are presented in linear order with some backtracking. Movement forward is occasionally interrupted as Dr. Forrester rewinds to something that is seemingly unrelated. Major revelations are dropped nonchalantly within these past moments. Once that flashback is tied to the central case, readers are returned to the forward momentum. This structure allows for multiple cliffhanger chapter endings and serves to entice readers to continue reading.
Readers never lose sight of the fact that Dr. Forrester has a stake in the outcome. Because his reputation resides with his ability to heal this family, he is anything but an objective participant. Just how he chooses to reach his goal of success will need to be experienced by the reader, but know that it is twisty path directly on a collision course with disaster. Readers loyalties shift constantly, like the blowing of the leaves on the forest floor around the victimized Jenny Kramer.
All is Not Forgotten is about the lengths we will go to in order to protect our family. The theme recurs in surprising ways, as more and more layers are uncovered. The memory-altering drug is not simply the mechanism by which the plot is set in motion, but also remains a touchstone throughout the developing story. Wendy Walker stays away from any ethical discussion about the validity of such a drug in relation to crime victims and later court testimony, but readers will be compelled to think about it after the book’s covers are closed.
Wendy Walker should be commended for finding a new, fresh way to tell her story. All is Not Forgotten will linger in the minds of readers and anticipation of what the author has in store for us next is inevitable.
Disclaimer: A print version of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the publisher. No review was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.