Spoiler Discussion: All Is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker

All Is Not Forgotten is a book I really don’t have that much to say about without discussing spoilers. So, I’m going to talk about all the nitty gritty details! Stop reading here if you don’t want to know…

All is Not Forgotten, Wendy WalkerFiction – Mystery/Thriller
Released July 12, 2016
320 Pages
Bottom Line: Read it.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (St. Martin’s Press) via NetGalley










Before I get into all the spoiler-y details, I should say that I could not put this book down. I wasn’t sure I actually liked it…and am still not sure to some extent, but I could. not. stop. reading. It’s incredibly twisty, dark, and deeply unsettling. And, I was fascinated by all the psychology/science about how the brain processes memory and trauma, especially given this Author’s Note:

[…] the altering of both factual and emotional memories of trauma is at the forefront of emerging research and technology in memory science. Scientists have successfully altered factual memories and mitigated the emotional impact of memories with the drugs and therapies described in this book, and they continue to search for a drug to target and erase those memories completely.

What is All Is Not Forgotten actually about?

The publisher’s blurb would have you believe it’s about Jenny, her rape, the controversial treatment she receives and the effects on her family and community:

Now, after reading it, I think Dr. Alan Forrester (the narrator and Jenny’s psychiatrist) is the center of the story. Jenny and her family end up as merely cogs in his wheel of deception and personal issues. So much so that a more apt title for the book could have been The Puppeteer…if it wasn’t somewhat of a spoiler.

What did you think of the narrator/psychiatrist (Dr. Alan Forrester)?

  • At first, I thought the narrator was just a random father of one of the other kids in town. This gave the book a creepy feeling and I couldn’t figure out why a random father would be narrating this story. It actually made me dislike the book at first. Thankfully, someone told me the narrator was Jenny’s psychiatrist well before it was revealed in the book and knowing that immediately improved my reading experience. That being said, the book itself didn’t reveal the narrator’s full identity until Chapter 7 (the 19% mark). I don’t understand what waiting that late added to the story.
  • Dr. Forrester comes off as creepy, arrogant, and manipulative…even before the extent of his machinations are fully revealed. He goes on long tangents about his views on life, his patients, and his own family and is willing to say things most regular people probably wouldn’t…which reminded me a bit of Dr. Marc Schlosser in Herman Koch’s Summer House with Swimming Pool (review). I was never a fan of Dr. Forrester, but I truly hated him by the end (which I suppose was the author’s intent).
  • I also didn’t buy his final justification for his actions:

    I am guilty. Hate me if you must. I have tried to show you the mitigating facts. Charlotte, Tom, Sean. I gave them back their lives, and none of that would have been possible if we had not had the collision. If I had not told my story to an unstable patient. If Jenny had not been in those woods with him. If I had confessed the moment I learned the truth. Hate me. Despise me. But know that I have weighed everything on the scales. And know that every night I fall asleep. And every morning I wake up and look in the mirror without any problem whatsoever.

  • The only person who truly benefited (without incredible cost) from all this was Sean because he was the ONLY person whose trauma was not set in motion by something Dr. Forrester did. Tom and Charlotte may have gotten their marriage back on track (and Charlotte was able to reconcile her two internal identities), but at the cost of their daughter’s rape and attempted suicide. 
  • Finally, the entire fact that the Kramers chose Dr. Forrester as Jenny’s psychiatrist is unrealistic. I think it’s highly unlikely that a teenage rape victim would feel comfortable seeking treatment from the FATHER OF A CLASSMATE for such a personal trauma, regardless of the doctor’s particular expertise.

How far should parents go to protect their children?

  • First, Dr. Forrester’s dilemma reminded me of the choices the Lohmans faced in Herman Koch’s The Dinner (review). And, it astounds me that I just compared parts of All Is Not Forgotten to not one, but two Herman Koch books! I want to be clear that I’m not saying All Is Not Forgotten is a great choice for fans of Herman Koch…I’m just comparing small pieces of each book here.
  • I understand how the Forresters would want to protect Jason if a truly unfortunate coincidence tied him to a high-profile crime he didn’t commit…and the subsequent media storm and damage to his reputation that could result. Even if he is innocent, his name and reputation could get dragged through the mud (i.e. the Duke lacrosse case). 
  • But, Dr. Forrester went down an incredibly intricate path to protect Jason that harmed Sean and all the Kramers (not to mention Bob Sullivan!) while a part of him believed Jason was guilty. 
  • It’s easy to label Forrester as evil because of all this, but do we truly know how far we would go to protect our own children? I hope I never have to find out.

What did you think of the ending?

  • Were you surprised that Glenn Shelby had raped Jenny? I guessed it when Forrester mentioned that Shelby’s post-prison apartment was in nearby Cranston. What I couldn’t figure out was the how or why.
  • That ending was quite an intricate web! It certainly went far beyond just who raped Jenny and I appreciated the more complicated layers. However, I think some plot points were too farfetched.
  • I didn’t buy the crux of the ending…
    A) that Forrester would tell the personal story of his own rape to a prison inmate who is also a patient. 
    B) that Glenn would then try to recreate Forrester’s experience by raping Forrester’s own son as revenge for “abandoning” him.
    C) that substituting Jenny for Jason at the last minute would fulfill Glenn’s weird fantasy (assuming you bought B). Why not find another opportunity to go after Jason?
    D) that Forrester would’ve kept his own scar and/or experience a secret from “the reader” until the very end given how much he revealed along the way about his own life.
  • And, I HATED the part about the killing of Bob Sullivan. It was way too farfetched that not one, not two, but three men (Sean Logan, Tom Kramer, and Lila’s father) reacted to their individual beefs with him by seriously considering killing him and that two of them took action/attempted action at the same time.

All that being said, are thrillers farfetched by nature?

  • There has to be some level of outlandishness to ensure a thriller’s plot is sufficiently surprising. But, I think there’s a fine line between “delightfully surprising, yet still makes sense” and “so over the top it leaves you rolling your eyes.” 
  • This ending leaned toward “so over the top it leaves you rolling your eyes” for me. There were too many fantastic coincidences and unrealistic elements. 
  • I always maintain that Gone Girl has the perfect ending (totally shocking, but fit all the pieces together perfectly)…and yet it does have elements that are completely unrealistic. So, it’s possible I’m being overly critical of the unrealistic elements in All Is Not Forgotten. Sometimes maybe it’s better to suspend reality for a bit and just enjoy the story!

Let’s talk! What did you think about all this?

If you enjoy these types of spoiler discussions, check similar ones on the following books:

After the Crash by Michel Bussi
Behind her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Where They Found Her
by Kimberly McCreight

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  1. Carmen wrote:

    I haven’t read the book, but your spoilery review has made me curious. Is that weird or what?! 🙂 I tend to like plausible scenarios; outlandish ones make me weary of the author’s capability to spin a great story.

    Posted 7.21.16 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      Oh no – well reading this post prior to the book probably ruined it for you. And I’m with you on leaning more toward plausible scenarios.

      Posted 7.24.16 Reply
  2. Meaghan wrote:

    Though I don’t consider it a “thriller”, I have always admired REBECCA for being able to remain suspenseful, have weird twists and surprises and yet remain completely plausible.

    Posted 7.21.16 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      I’ll have to check that one out! Haven’t read it!

      Posted 7.24.16 Reply
  3. I listened to this one on audio, and the long rants by Forrester were at odd places and went back in time, making it sometimes hard to follow. I definitely got the impression that Forrester had some doubts about his son and trying to pin the blame on someone else to get attention off him was so skeevy. I also thought the ending was just a little too tidy in that the killer came out of the woodwork (even though Forrester knew stuff about him from the beginning). I did really enjoy the psychiatric therapy elements for reclaiming memories. Great book, but did have some flaws.

    Posted 7.21.16 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      I bet this would have been really difficult to follow on audio! And I agree that Shelby came out of the woodwork. I mean, he was part of the story, but completely unrelated to the Jenny rape storyline…so I think the connections that had to be made to make him work as the rapist were pretty farfetched.

      Posted 7.24.16 Reply
  4. Tara wrote:

    From a purely scientific, the science of psychology, perspective, this novel was RIGHT ON! In my experience working with patients and families, and through stories I was exposed to during training, this is all (believe it, or not) completely plausible. I’m not suggesting that there were not liberties taken for entertainment value, but all of these ideas would hold water, I’m pretty sure, if we talked to an experienced psychiatrist and psychologist. Having said that, Dr. Forrester was certainly working inappropriately and would go down in flames! I love that I had no idea about his identity until later in the book; I was DYING to find out! Also, just from another perspective, early in my training for clinical chaplaincy, it was REALLY hard not to share stories about myself; it was tough for me, intially, to make connections with strangers without creating a personal connection through something I’d experienced. I can relate! GAH! I would talk to you for hours about this one, Sarah!

    Posted 7.22.16 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      Oooh – so interesting from your different perspective. Especially about it being hard not to share stories about yourself. And, now that I think about it that way, I can see that. After all, when you’re talking to a friend about a problem, don’t you often relate it to something that’s happened in your own life and what you may have learned from that?
      So, the one specific plot point I’m wondering about is the plausibility of Shelby attempting to recreate Forrester’s rape as a way to get back at him for “abandoning” him. Is that plausible or farfetched from your experience? Is it common for people to become overly attached, etc to their psychiatrist?
      We may have to go offline on this discussion! So much more to say!

      Posted 7.24.16 Reply
  5. Catherine wrote:

    I’m with you, Sarah, on all points. It was working, then it was not, but I might still recommend it. The point where Jenny freaked out over the smell of chlorine bleach?! I almost dropped my ipad because that is a visceral smell.

    I think Tara’s comment is fascinating. I would not have said it was realistic so it’s interesting to hear from someone who works in that field.

    Posted 7.26.16 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      It was so interesting to hear Tara’s perspective. And made me a bit less critical of some of the elements I found unrealistic.

      Posted 7.26.16 Reply
    • Betsy wrote:

      I don’t understand why Jenny smelled bleach if it was not the son who raped her. Did the Shelby guy also swim?? Also why were the sons sweatshirt in a bag hidden in his closet? He didn’t know anyone had seen him go in the woods

      Posted 12.16.17 Reply
  6. Michelle wrote:

    I finished this book this weekend and knew I wanted to go back and read your post once I was done. I think the one thing I am going to put in my own review is how manipulated I feel, and not in a good way. I actually feel rather used by the entire story now that I know how it ends. Over 300 pages to learn that not only did our good doctor know who the rapist was from the very beginning, but he also used the story to justify his own actions – that isn’t a thriller to me. This is a psychological mindf&ck, which I usually don’t mind but in this instance it bothers me a lot. I agree with you that I bought into Gone Girl hook, line and sinker because it was plausible. Other than the Treatment, I would imagine much of this novel is plausible, but it doesn’t feel that way, does it? I think it is because unlike GG, we only have the good doctor’s POV on which to form our opinions, and we know by the end that he has a vested interest in the story and what he unveils. Had we been able to see the story from another person’s POV, I think our opinions would be different.

    Posted 7.26.16 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      You know, I hadn’t thought about it that way, but I think I agree! I wanted a “real” explanation and this one didn’t feel quite real.

      But – did you read the Author’s Note?! The treatment is potentially plausible…parts of it exist in real life and they’re working toward something like in the book.

      Posted 7.26.16 Reply
  7. Denise Armstrong wrote:

    I am really having a hard time getting through this book. I love a good thriller, but I am finding the narrator a complete asshole and the story seems to be jumping around and going off on tangents. I have not read most of your post so its not spoiled for me. The reason I looked in here is because I found Sean’s story to be a copy of an episode from the tv show “Lie to Me”. Just wondered if anyone else picked up on that?

    Posted 9.5.16 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      I 100% agree that the narrator is a total jerk and there are lots of tangents. It was weird…I couldn’t put it down, but was still recognizing all the issues with it as I was reading.

      Fascinating about Sean’s story! I’ve never seen Lie to Me, so didn’t realize that.

      Posted 9.6.16 Reply
  8. Kay Platis wrote:

    I really enjoyed the story. Well…maybe “enjoyed” is not the proper word, but I couldn’t put it down. I felt all of the emotions that other people have discussed here- from disgust to loyalty to disbelief. I have one question: Why did Jenny remember the chlorine smell? Did Glenn have a chlorine smell?

    Posted 10.3.16 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      I had the same question and the best answer that I could come up with is that Glenn did smell of bleach….because remember when Dr. Forrester went to Glenn’s apartment after he got out of prison and noticed there were tons of cleaning products sitting around?

      And I agree that while I couldn’t put it down, enjoyable is definitely not the word I’d use to describe it!

      Posted 10.3.16 Reply
  9. Kellie Maestri wrote:

    The first part of this novel was pure gold. I was enraged and heartbroken for Jenny. I felt for the loving but emasculated father. The author had the psychiatrist-patient format down beautifully. Then everything fell apart when it’s realized Dr. Alan Forrester knew the identity of Jenny’s rapist the whole damn time. Plus I can’t believe a highly esteemed psychiatrist told a patient his deepest darkest secret in HD. To me, the worst part was that Jenny suffered on Dr. Forrester’s couch for years while he silently held the key to her recovery.

    Posted 3.24.19 Reply
  10. Dorothy Koutsos wrote:

    Hey there. How does the bleach smell factor into the ending? I feel like that was a hole in the resolution, unless I missed something.

    Posted 3.17.23 Reply

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