BOOK REVIEW | All is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker

All is Not Forgotten by Wnedy Walker.jpg

2.5/5 stars

From the publisher:
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.

My thoughts:
This is an incredibly difficult book to review – I honestly don’t know how I feel about it. To start, it’s is extremely triggering. If you have experienced sexual violence, this book may be hard to read as graphic depictions of rape are illustrated throughout. I am comfortable with all topics and never shy away from anything graphic, controversial, or frightening, but this book is extremely detailed and it’s a lot take in. Jenny Kramer is brutally raped at a party, and is given an experimental treatment that erases her memory of the traumatic event. While the graphic detail seems to be too much, it does serve some purpose; as a reader, you feel the violation – it becomes real. Since this book is marketed as a thriller, I wasn’t expecting such a significant statement on sexual violence.

The element that struck me most with this book is the idea of erasing the memory of a trauma. If you erase the physical memory, will the emotional memory still respond to triggers? Will the victim be better if they do not know what they suffered? Or, is moving through the suffering the path to healing?

I struggled with the narrator in this book, and unfortunately this is what takes away from the story. It’s written from the perspective of an unreliable, third person minor character, which is a device I often love. Dr. Alan Forrester, the psychiatrist that is treating Jenny and her family following the attack, tells us Jenny’s story through his unique lens; as a psychiatrist, he has insights into all of the major characters. I love an unreliable narrator, but Forrester often confused me: he would jump from being so compassionate and caring with Jenny, to uncharacteristically calling a young woman a slut.

Finally, the shocking twist that was promised was not really shocking at all. Unpredictable, yes, but not the major plot shift that I was expecting. I was left disappointed.

All is Not Forgotten had so much going for it, but the unreliable narrator combined with the disappointing conclusion made for a flop. Wendy Walker is clearly creative and intelligent, and I would be interested in seeing what she comes up with next.

Book Review | The Summer that Melted Everything by Tiffany McDaniel

The Summer that Melted Everything by Tiffany McDaniel

5/5 stars

*I received a digital advanced reader copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

From the publisher:
Fielding Bliss has never forgotten the summer of 1984: the year a heat wave scorched Breathed, Ohio. The year he became friends with the devil.

Sal seems to appear out of nowhere – a bruised and tattered thirteen-year-old boy claiming to be the devil himself answering an invitation. Fielding Bliss, the son of a local prosecutor, brings him home where he’s welcomed into the Bliss family, assuming he’s a runaway from a nearby farm town.

When word spreads that the devil has come to Breathed, not everyone is happy to welcome this self-proclaimed fallen angel. Murmurs follow him and tensions rise, along with the temperatures as an unbearable heat wave rolls into town right along with him. As strange accidents start to occur, riled by the feverish heat, some in the town start to believe that Sal is exactly who he claims to be. While the Bliss family wrestles with their own personal demons, a fanatic drives the town to the brink of a catastrophe that will change this sleepy Ohio backwater forever.

My thoughts:
This book is absolutely amazing. It’s beautiful, sad, dark, and touches on many challenging and polarizing topics. McDaniel’s ability to work through difficult or controversial topics draws similarities to my favourite author, John Irving (though their prose is nothing alike).

It’s difficult to say much about The Summer that Melted Everything without giving significant moments away, but I will say that I have never highlighted so many quotes from a single book! This book features one of the most touching moments between a mother and son that I’ve ever read – those who have read it will know what I am talking about.

The Summer that Melted Everything will probably go down as my favourite release of 2016 – I will be picking this up in hardcover soon, and plan to re-read this many times in the future. Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for the copy, I’m already looking forward to Tiffany McDaniel’s next book!