Click here to read reviewer Luan Gaines's take on All is Not Forgotten.
Walker’s novel explores tough subject matter: the rape of a teenager by a stranger. Set in Fairview, Connecticut, the opening scenes convey Jenny Kramer’s night of horror. Fifteen years old and unusually self-aware,
Jenny finds the party to be everything she had imagined. However, as music and laughter wafts from the open windows, Jenny
ends up fighting for her life in Juniper Wood. All she can hear are the depraved sighs of her attacker and her own guttural cries: “I closed my eyes and just let the monster in.”
Jenny is plagued by disjointed and fragmented scraps of memory as the police attempt to reconstruct the night with forensic evidence, witness accounts, and criminal psychologist profiles. Jenny’s therapist, Dr. Alan Forrester, suggests a miracle treatment, a new drug that will put Jenny into a sort of coma in order to block her memories and at the very least reduce any PTSD she might suffer. Jenny’s distraught mother, Charlotte Kramer, is all too willing to allow the treatment. Jenny’s father, Tom,
compounds the issue; his sudden silence mirrors Detective Parsons' insistence that even if the drug doesn’t work completely, anything Jenny did remember would be ripped apart in court as unreliable.
The novel unfolds in chapters that move between Tom and Charlotte’s confessionals and Jenny’s confidential sessions with Dr. Forrester. With few clues left at the scene and no one arrested, the investigation led by Fairview’s police department eventually reaches an impasse. Tom
becomes overwhelmed by stress and by a fanatical desire to find the rapist himself. Forrester implies that Tom’s meddling in the case has hampered a successful resolution. Forrester paints a portrait of Jenny as a perfect child whose body was defiled and violated, her virtue stolen and her spirit broken.
In contrast, Charlotte endures an agonizing tension within the walls of their “fixed up house.” She’s anxious that she’s not done enough to protect her daughter and to help her to forget. In an interesting twist, Charlotte goes to Dr. Forrester, embarking on a series of confessionals that will expose the fault lines in the Kramer family, leaving Tom in tears and Charlotte disgusted. Meanwhile, Jenny’s dependence on Forrester, and another patient--ex-Navy
Seal and Iraq war veteran Sean Logan--adds another layer of anxiety to the proceedings. Logan
became Forrester’s patient 17 months before he began work with the Kramer family. Logan exhibits similar symptoms: anxiety, depression, anger and suicidal thoughts. Like Jenny, Sean is “lost in battle and lost in his own mind.”
Like delicate strands of spun sugar, Walker’s compelling narrative circles around Forrester, Tom, Charlotte, Jenny, and Sean. The author has the reader jumping from one suspect to another--from Tom’s boss, Bob Sullivan, to Forrester’s truculent teenage son, who finally confesses to his
father that yes, he was at the party the night that Jenny was raped. From the pain of secrets to the brutality of the rape itself, Walker bathes her characters in a world of sleaze and dishonesty, especially besieged Charlotte, who from the outset refuses to be Forrester’s “open book.” Charlotte’s willful blindness to Jenny’s despair has her soaked not only in her daughter’s own blood but also in her
own self-loathing and humiliation from a clandestine affair.
Forrester continues to hold court. Like the evil genius Dr. Frankenstein, he seems to thrive in the wake of the Kramer family tragedy, manipulating and controlling as he incorporates powerful psychological tools to dismantle Jenny, Charlotte and Tom’s defenses. In an unexpected twist, Forrester succeeds in creating “a straw man”
to deflect attention and suspicion away from his son. When Jenny has a change of heart and decides to unburden the dark secrets of that night, Forrester begins a slow dance with the devil that moves seamlessly from his therapeutic acrobatics to the memories of a young boy who was lured into the woods and into a new world of fear and searing pain.
Walker’s captivatingly paints shallow characters engaging in provocative and devious behavior. If Sean is Jenny’s savior, Bob Sullivan seems to be Charlotte’s ideal of the sexually voracious male, powerful, squalid and sordid.
With exquisite execution, Walker balances real drama against the power of these new psychoactive drugs to expose the anxious and unstoppable monster
who on that dark and terrible night attempted to steal everything from Jenny’s mind and from her body.