Saturday, July 9, 2016

Book Review: "All Is Not Forgotten" by Wendy Walker

"All Is Not Forgotten" by Wendy Walker will be published July 12, 2016. I waffled about my enjoyment of this book throughout the reading of it. In the end it is a four star read. It does finally get to that satisfying ending but you have to believe you're going to get there. This story is told masterfully and uses a unique point of view of the psychiatrist, his name is Dr. Alan Forrester. Let me give you the synopsis and then we'll discuss the good and the bad. Maybe I  can convince you to give up a few days to read this because in the end it is worth the time spent.

Jenny Kramer, a normal, bubbly, beautiful and smart sixteen year old lives in the idyllic affluent town of Fairview, Connecticut with her mother and father. They're life seems picture perfect. One evening while Jenny is at a party she is brutally raped in the woods behind the house. In the hours after the rape her parents agree for Jenny to receive a controversial drug cocktail that will essentially erase Jenny's memory of the horrific event. This seems like the merciful thing to do to prevent the trauma that would plague Jenny. Unknown to her parents and doctors administering the drug is that just forgetting the event isn't enough to rid the patient of the haunting emotions connected to it.

After the rape and the drug cocktail Jenny's family does not return to normal. Her father obsesses about finding the perpetrator and her mother lies to herself that everything is peachy. This leaves no room for Jenny who lives with the anxiety of knowing something happened but not being able to connect with the event. Told through the eyes of Jenny's psychiatrist, we get a thorough analysis of how a family fractures through trauma and how to find a new normal. Dr. Forrester knows he must help Jenny get her memories back and through this process of helping a victim overcome and a family survive we also follow the mystery of who raped Jenny.

Let me add here that there are actual drug trials in the real world looking for this memory wiping capability. Scientists have already found ways to alter and manipulate memories using drugs and it is on the near horizon where there will be the ability to erase trauma. Whether this is a good idea or not will be a very controversial subject.

In this surprisingly complicated mystery we learn how memories are formed in the brain. Memories are not just one "blob" stored together in one place so when you access them, you watch a movie of an event. Traumatic or powerful memories in particular are split into many pieces separate from the actual event memory. There are emotional, smell, touch, taste, sound memories. We can access the event memory by using any of the pathways connected from the senses. For instance, the smell of lilies can trigger the memory of one's wedding because the bride's bouquet was lilies. If the connections between the senses and the event are disconnected, the event memory can be lost and misfiled, making it difficult or nearly impossible to access. This was what the drug did with Jenny's memory. The connection to the event was severed in her mind.

Through Dr. Forrester's telling, we see the excruciating psychological pain Jenny is experiencing because she has no connection to explain all the emotional trauma she feels. Jenny has free floating anxiety and no explanation of why she feels so horrible all the time. Reading about how Dr. Forrester helps the Kramer family is what made me keep reading this mystery. The only negative in the book that made me waffle in my enjoyment was that Dr. Forrester, being a psychiatrist, can have a monotone "voice" as he keeps his emotions out of the telling as any good psychiatrist should do. Sometimes this approach got tedious. In the end I finally got that moment every mystery reader looks for. It took most of the book to get there but the journey was worth it.


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