Published by HQ
14 July 2016
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.
The graphic brutality of this story may shock from the very beginning. Teenager Jenny Kramer is at a party when she is viciously attacked in a nearby wood. At the hospital, with her parent’s consent (although to be fair, given reluctantly by her father), she is given a controversial drug which will erase her memory of the ordeal. Problem solved then. She will have no lasting memories of the attack and will be able to continue with her life. Only things don’t quite work out as they should. Although Jenny can’t remember the attack or anything about her attacker, her mind and body still retains the trauma – but she has no memories to attach it to. When her recovery falters, psychiatrist Dr Alan Forrester is asked by her parents to intervene. What follows are recollections of childhood traumas and long held feelings of inadequacies and it becomes clear that Jenny is not the only person to need therapy.
The town of Fairview, Connecticut, where the Kramers live, is a very close knit community where strangers are noticed; the locals are horrified that someone they may know could have carried out this vile attack and the local police are under pressure to find the culprit fast, however much extra work this entails. Jenny’s mother, Charlotte, would rather forget that the attack ever happened so that life can carry on as usual, but her father, Tom, has been particularly hit hard by his daughter’s ordeal and battling with his own feelings of guilt, he becomes fixated on finding out the identity of the rapist and obtaining justice for Jenny, even if it means ruffling a few feathers in the process.
This story has a very different structure from normal, in that it is narrated by a third party, whose identity is at first unknown. We see personalities and events through the eyes of another, not knowing how reliable or trustworthy their version of events are. Everything we see and are told is via someone else but is it the truth or are we being manipulated? Whilst the writing is extremely intelligent and the plot cleverly structured , the third party narration made me feel disconnected from the main characters, and whilst I was engrossed in the unfolding events, I didn’t have that emotional investment in the story that I should have felt. This is purely a personal view but I wanted to feel more for Jenny; after all she had suffered a horrific ordeal, had her memory taken from her without her consent and she was the one having to deal with the consequences, but I didn’t feel that I really got to know her.
Linked into the story is a former soldier, thought to be suffering from PTSD; he has been given the same drug and is being treated by Forrester. Everyone has their secrets, and there are times when self-preservation seems more important than justice.
This is very much a character driven story as opposed to being a fast paced thriller and the pace and tension does peak and trough throughout. Through the narrator, the human mind is explored in some detail which at times I felt slowed the story down a little but despite this, it does have a thought provoking and absorbing plot with complex and complicated personalities. There are some superb twists and certainly for the last part of the story, I couldn’t put the book down.
This would make an excellent book group read, as there is so much to discuss including the behaviour of certain characters, parenting issues and memory science as a concept. Although the author does acknowledge that the drug treatment in the novel does not currently exist in its entirety, there is ongoing research into the alteration of factual memories. Should drugs be used in this way to deprive a person of their bad memories, or does that person need to remember in order to come to terms with what has happened. There are also the legal arguments around this process. If someone has their memory tampered with, how can any testimony in court be relied upon.
My thanks to the publisher for the paperback copy to review.
About the author:
Wendy Walker has worked as an attorney specialising in family law. She lives in Connecticut where she is at work on her next novel.