REVIEW: ALL IS NOT FORGOTTEN, BY WENDY WALKER

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Set in picture perfect Fairview, Connecticut, All is Not Forgotten takes the reader into the troubled minds of its characters through the perspective of our omniscient narrator. A narrator whose identity is not revealed for a while.

Specific events transpired one night when teenagers partied, with drugs and alcohol flowing, and with the subsequent drama that comes from inebriated teens.

One young woman, Jenny Kramer, walked off into the woods, upset over the behavior of her date, and there she was brutally raped. The masked perpetrator left a significant carved mark on her lower back.

Our story takes us into the aftermath, especially focusing on the controversial drug given to Jenny afterwards, a drug purported to erase her memory of the event.

What we learn in the rest of the story is how erasing memories does not lead to healing, and actually trying to retrieve the facts of what happened can lead to emotional memory…and recovery.

Watching the psychiatrist treat various patients, both in Fairview and in a nearby prison, and also as he offers support and therapy to the Kramer family, we begin to see how the pieces of a very strange puzzle are beginning to coalesce. What is the purpose behind some of Dr. Forester’s treatment modalities? How is he able to probe and extract just what he needs for their treatments, and also for his own purposes? Is he helping or harming?

Tom and Charlotte Kramer, Jenny’s parents, have their own issues, and as the trauma widens the fault lines in the family unit, their dark secrets are clamoring to be revealed.

Several other patients and their stories come out via the omniscient narrator, and their purpose unfolds over time, as they add just what we need to fully understand what has transpired.

The writing style was uncomfortable at first, but gradually the story flowed and came together with just what we needed to know at the time we needed to know it. The non-linear style of storytelling added to the suspense and to my enjoyment. 5 stars.

***My e-ARC came to me from the publisher via NetGalley.

REVIEW: IN THE MIRROR, BY KAIRA ROUDA

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Jennifer Wells Benson is spending her last months of life in a treatment facility called Shady Valley. She has been through almost every cancer treatment available, plus some clinical trials…and while nobody is saying there is no hope, she is planning a big get-together to celebrate her life.

And she is looking back on the life she had. Like in a rear-view mirror.

At home are her beloved family, including her husband Henry, her three-year-old son Hank, and 18-month-old Hannah, who was just an infant when she was diagnosed.

Jennifer co-owns a store named Clothes the Loop, which I recognized from another book by the author, Here, Home, Hope. There were other characters from that story, like Kelly, who stages homes, and the annoying Rachel White.

From Jennifer’s past comes newly divorced Alexander Caldwell Thomas. He had been her boyfriend and first love, but she is sure she chose the right man when she married Henry. So why is Alex pursuing her? What motivates him? And why does he turn violent suddenly?

Jennifer’s self-absorbed sister Julie also seems to be spending a lot of time with Alex. What, exactly, is going on?

I loved meeting Ralph, another patient in the facility. He and Jennifer support each other and make their days of waiting seem more fulfilling.

In the Mirror is one of those stories that is sad, but beneath the sadness lies a ray of hope. Will the final clinical trial be the miracle Jennifer needs? Will going home, finally, be just what must happen in order for her life to be complete? As much as I wanted to know what lay ahead for her, I was also eager for the story to end. Too much sadness? In some ways, I thought Jennifer seemed a little too focused on herself, even though she had every reason to be. 3.5 stars.