Today is my turn on the Blog-Tour for Wendy Walker’s intriguing thriller All is Not Forgotten!
About the Author
Wendy Walker is a practicing divorce attorney in Fairfield County, Connecticut who began writing while at home raising her three sons. She published two novels with St. Martin’s Press and edited multiple compilations for the Chicken Soup for the Soul series before writing her debut psychological thriller, All is Not Forgotten.
How can people connect with Wendy Walker on social media?
She has an email which can be found via her website: wendywalkerbooks.com
About the Book
You can erase the memory. But you cannot erase the crime. Jenny’s wounds have healed. An experimental treatment has removed the memory of a horrific and degrading attack. She is moving on with her life. That was the plan. Except it’s not working out. Something has gone. The light in the eyes. And something was left behind. A scar. On her lower back. Which she can’t stop touching. And she’s getting worse. Not to mention the fact that her father is obsessed with finding her attacker and her mother is in toxic denial. It may be that the only way to uncover what’s wrong is to help Jenny recover her memory. But even if it can be done, pulling at the threads of her suppressed experience will unravel much more than the truth about her attack. And that could destroy as much as it heals.
Before we get down to business (i.e. talking about your book) I would like to ask a set of questions I call ‘Breaking the Ice.’
The last book you read? (Inquisitive bookworms want to know) I just read an ARC of a book called The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel. It is a family drama/thriller that captures the essence of family dysfunction and the ripple effects that last for generations. Fabulous!
The last movie you watched, which you felt left a mark (in your heart, soul, wallet…you name it)? The last movie I got to see without my three teenage sons was Brooklyn (yes – I went with a girlfriend!). It was gorgeous and moving and yet so simple. Great film making!
Are you more of a Game of Thrones or Outlander gal? (Combinations are possible) I have to admit, as unpopular as this will make me with some of your readers, that while I appreciate the wonderful characters and epic settings of those shows, I tend to enjoy television that is more real world. House of Cards, Homeland, The Americans and for comedy I am totally addicted to Catastrophe!
Which famous person (dead, alive, barely kicking) would you most like to meet? I am so tempted right now to answer in a way that will make me seem profoundly intellectual but the honest, suburban mom answer is George Clooney!
Something you treat yourself to, now and again? (Cream éclairs totally count) Dinner with a close friend. There is something about letting everything out with someone who knows you well, who holds your history, and whom you trust completely (over a glass of wine, of course) that is absolutely blissful.
All of the above questions are actually a pretty elaborate pysch evaluation disguised as random questions. There are some really interesting answers though. I am a fan of Homeland, House of Cards and Newsroom, so I totally get the interest in real world TV.
Now let’s talk about All is Not Forgotten.
I particularly enjoyed the angle you chose to approach this topic from; usually the focus is on the victim, in All is Not Forgotten you make the reader sit on the balcony of the arena and watch with the rest of the characters, as the story unfolds…
How did you come to the decision to tell the story in this way? What was the intention behind taking this approach? I had two objectives when I set out to write this book. The first was to provide a substantive exposition of the underlying issue – which is memory science and the treatment of trauma following a criminal assault. The second was to tell the story in a unique way that would capture a reader’s attention completely but also feel like an engaging conversation with a friend. I plotted each character’s story using coloured note cards and stacked them sequentially. But then I layered them into the chapters at times when they felt organic to the story. That way, the information did not get out of order, but it was delivered to the reader with the structure I designed.
Charlotte and Tom both react to the situation in vastly opposing ways, which causes a lot of friction throughout the book – did this predicament make up part of your initial idea, or was it something you came to later on? Everything in this novel was carefully plotted. But, as I wrote, the characters did become more complex. I knew Charlotte and Tom would have that tension and I knew the basic psychological reasons behind it. What evolved as I wrote were the details of their back stories and how their childhoods fed their underlying personalities which are the basis of the conflict. The good Charlotte/bad Charlotte dynamic, for example, came about because of the way I was writing her story and how the narrator needed to explain things to her so he could help her understand. I loved that angle so much that I went back and gave it more substance throughout the earlier chapters.
You’ve obviously researched deeply into the use of drugs in the treatment of PTSD and trauma in regards to erasing memories. Did you find your own views on the use of this kind of treatment changing the further you delved into this? Did you make any unexpected or surprising discoveries along the way? I was surprised at how advanced the science had become since I first read about it back in 2010. But the basic dilemma I saw for crime survivors remained the same. Anything that is intended to alter or erase a memory will conflict with the ability to seek justice and come to terms with the feelings of violation that are inherent in those experiences. My views on this did not change – I think the ability to mitigate PTSD is absolutely amazing and worthwhile. But it will pose difficult decisions for people whose traumas involve criminal assaults.
Even if a treatment such as this does have a positive effect in cases of PTSD, physically and psychologically it negates the possibility of conviction, which raises quite a significant ethical question. Are these sorts of divisive dilemmas at the heart of all of the stories you write? I try very hard to structure my novels around issues that will resonate in readers on a personal level. In All Is Not Forgotten, I hope readers will think about this dilemma every time they read about memory science and even in their every day lives as they wonder what they would choose for themselves or for their children. Dilemmas in relationships and families and society as a whole make us stop and think and feel things, and for me that is what can make any story worth reading.
The big question of the hour comes down to whether it is better to forget or remember all the details of a traumatic event: if you were in Jenny’s shoes, which option do you think you would take? This is always a tough question for me. I would absolutely choose to mitigate the emotional component with some of the treatments that are available now. Reconsolidating memories of trauma in therapy to reduce the emotional pain they hold seems to me to be life saving for many people. That said, I do not think I would choose to erase the factual memory if that became possible. And I would not do anything that would impede justice. For me, personally, that would be a priority.
Thank you for answering all the questions, even the odd ones!
I have to hand it to Walker, she certainly doesn’t pull any punches. Her story is vicious in a sense that this is the sad reality for many young women. Being treated like a piece of meat, being used and abused, being exploited and having to adapt their behaviour to not become a victim, has been the norm for many years.
Jenny is pushed into coping with the rape. In a way it seems as if her parents do her an even bigger injustice by pressing the delete button on her memories. Her mother wants to shove the experience under the carpet and her father is mainly concerned with vengeance. So having the memories erased causes instant conflict between Charlotte and Tom, because only one person is getting what they want. Begs the question, where does that leave the poor victim in this scenario?
Eventually it all leads to a complete burnout for Jenny. Not being able to come to terms with the assault leaves its mark on the young girl. Finally she gets the help and support she needs in the form of therapy. The therapist sees the case as a personal challenge and possible milestone in his career. He seems more interested in solving her case or rather helping her to remember for his own benefit.
Makes you wonder whether the therapist’s ego actually takes a higher place in the scheme of things. His ability to discover, heal and be right seems to dominate the entire scenario.
In that regard he isn’t really that different from her parents. Both Tom and Charlotte have agendas and goals, which are driven by their own frame of reference and past experiences. Overall it becomes clear just how little everything is about the actual victim. It’s about Tom’s need for revenge, Charlotte’s need to look normal for society, the therapist’s need to succeed, but hardly ever really truthfully about Jenny coming to terms with the rape.
The therapist also allows the feelings of his own past assault to steer and guide the conversation and therapy with all of them. This makes him anything but objective, and certainly a less than wise choice in the healing process. He feels elation and excitement every time Jenny remembers a piece of the puzzle.
It’s an engrossing read because the topic is controversial and the twist is a shocker. I enjoyed the cat and mouse pace, despite figuring out said twist. Walker has added a subtle layer of complexity to her psychological thriller, which made it a memorable reading experience and a breath of fresh air.