Forget Me Not, by Luana Lewis, is a psychological drama about grief, guilt and family secrets. It explores the emotional impact of upbringing, the guilt of a working mother, and the tightrope family members walk between confronting difficult issues and maintaining a comfortable home life.
Most of the story is told from the point of view of Rose, a senior neonatal nurse whose grown up daughter, Vivien, has been found dead in her bathroom. It is unclear if Vivien took her own life or if she was murdered. An injury to her head could have been the result of an attack or caused by a fall.
Rose is an emotional mess. She raised her daughter alone whilst forging her career, and now feels guilt that much of the child’s care was the responsibility of others. Money was tight and Rose felt more at home at work than in her damp, council flat with her wilful child.
Vivien married Ben, whose business acumen brought them wealth and comfort. Rose believed that they were happy together although she saw little of the family. She visited for her granddaughter’s birthdays and at Christmas, to keep up appearances, but knew little of the detail of her daughter’s life.
Now that Vivien is dead, Rose wishes to ingratiate herself with her little girl, Lexi. I found this creepy. The child still had a loving father who was perfectly capable of caring for her without his mother in law, who had shown little interest in Lexi’s well being before Vivien’s death. Rose pushes her way into the grieving family, openly criticises her son in law, and tries to mother a child she barely knows.
Another key character in the book is Chloe, a childhood friend of Vivien’s, who had a relationship with Ben before he and Vivien got together. Rose does not trust Chloe, especially when she appears to be helping Ben out, a role that Rose wants for herself.
As the police investigation uncovers details of Vivien’s life in the months leading up to her death it becomes clear just how little Rose knew about her daughter, yet still she insists that she should be the one to watch over Lexi. Rose’s instability manifests itself at work. Ben’s willingness to let her near his child can only be down to pity, although why he feels this after the way she has neglected his family over so many years is unclear.
The plot progresses, family secrets are uncovered, and it is shown just how damaged Vivien was. The denouement is satisfactory, although I remained unconvinced that Ben would be so tolerant of his mother in law given her penultimate actions in the tale.
Some of the details of the way Rose was written grated. No matter how much she ate or drank she was always described as having a dry mouth. When talking she complained repeatedly of a lump in her throat.
Perhaps it was my dislike of Rose which coloured my views of this book. I felt compassion for Ben and even more for Lexi. Amidst the twists and turns of suicide or murder, and if so who was to blame, several of the characters appeared sinister. I found it hard to focus on others when Rose was so consistently Machiavellian.
My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Transworld.