All Is Not Forgotten
(2016), a mystery novel by Wendy Walker, follows protagonist Jenny Kamer, who is assaulted at a party in the affluent suburb of Fairview, Connecticut. To deal with the posttraumatic stress, Kamer is administered a controversial drug to remove her memories of the assault. In the aftermath, as she recovers from her physical wounds, the emotional wounds resurface detached from any factual recall. Kamer’s father struggles obsessively to find the identity of the attacker, while her mother tries to repress the entire tragedy, fixated on a suburban utopian ideal for her family. As each family member reckons differently with the assault, the instability of their relationships and of their larger community becomes clear.
Fifteen-year-old Jenny Kramer seethes with anger, having arrived at a party to see her date hitting on a different girl. She copes by drinking too much alcohol, and then, drunkenly walks into the woods to calm down. She is ambushed and violently raped for more than an hour by a man wearing a mask and gloves, who has meticulously shaved himself to avoid any DNA trace. After the rape, Kramer makes it to the hospital. Her mother, having learned about an experimental treatment to remove traumatic memories, decides it is a good choice for her daughter, believing it will rid her of a lifetime of flashbacks.
The novel then shifts to eight months after the rape. Kramer’s mom, Charlotte, and Bob Sullivan are carrying on an affair in the pool house and notice that the bathroom light is on. Kramer, who has been abusing depression and anxiety drugs to repress her emotions, has tried to kill herself by slitting her wrists. They run into the bathroom and find her unconscious, but the doctors save her life.
Kramer’s mom sends her to Forrester, a psychiatrist who offered to help her. Almost immediately, he learns that his son is up for questioning by the police investigating the rape, since a drug dealer spotted him entering the woods on the same night. Forrester reneges on his duty to provide psychiatric care for Kramer, desperately trying to protect his own child from accusation. He oversteps the ethical boundaries of his profession, manipulating the oblivious Kramers and detective team, including the principal detective, Parsons, into following dead-end diversions in their investigation.
Forrester knows that his son is innocent because he is familiar with the real culprit, Glenn Shelby, a felon whom he had treated on a volunteer basis when he was serving time in Somer Prison. He drew the connection upon learning that Jenny was sliced with a carved stick during the rape incident: Forrester, having also experienced this act of violence when he was a child, had related it to Glenn during a session. It is clear that Glenn took the story literally in order to get Forrester’s attention. Forrester decides not to tell the police about the rapist because he wants to experience the catharsis that Kramer might give him when she recovers the memories on her own.
In one session, Kramer’s memory of the rape resurges after smelling a disc composed of bleach. This evidence further implicates Forrester’s son, who is on the swim team and has frequent contact with chlorine, a similar-smelling chemical. Forrester goes to Glenn’s home and smells bleach. He confronts Glenn, telling him to commit suicide for failing to create an untraceable crime.
Meanwhile, Forrester continues trying to throw the police off Glenn’s trail, telling Detective Parsons that Bob Sullivan may be a suspect. Parsons does a background check and finds that Sullivan was charged with sexual assault as a college freshman. Kramer’s mother is shocked and suspects that he is seeing someone other than her. Fran, his wife, relates that he is carrying on multiple affairs. She proves his alibi with a recording produced by a private investigator she hired to follow him. This recording shows that Bob has been having sex with a friend’s young daughter. Bob’s friend murders him with a crowbar while he is working at a car dealership. Forrester, meanwhile, finds Glenn dead at home, having hanged himself with a note admitting his rape and the methods he used.
At the novel’s conclusion, Kramer recovers her full memory of the rape. Rather than try again to have the memory repressed, she learns to come to terms with its reality. Forrester never reveals that Kramer’s experience is tightly entangled in his own personal trauma, but feels catharsis from the knowledge that he shares his trauma with someone else. All Is Not Forgotten
is thus about how memory, neutral and innocuous in itself, can be manipulated by people to evolve and transmit itself like a virus between different narratives, leading to both pernicious and restorative consequences.