The traumatic memories of a teenager’s rape are medically erased, but lingering thoughts of the attack remain, infecting everyone in her close-knit community.
15-year-old Jenny Kramer thought the party she'd been invited to would be the moment when she’d finally blossom, maybe even get a moment alone with the dashing Doug Hastings. Instead she found herself drunk, in the woods, the victim of a vicious hourlong rape, of which Walker spares the reader no detail in this unnecessarily explicit debut. After she's rushed to the hospital, Jenny’s parents—blubbering car salesman Tom and tightly put together homemaker Charlotte —decide to give her an experimental drug cocktail to erase her memories of the attack. If the process were successful, there’d be no book, so enter the skin-crawlingly smug narrator, soon introduced as psychiatrist Dr. Alan Forrester, who begins treating Jenny, along with her whole family, after her nearly successful suicide attempt. It’s difficult to empathize with a character—our narrator no less—who looks at a 15-year-old assault victim and wonders to himself “why [he] could not see the rape in her eyes.” As the well-to-do enclave of Fairview, Connecticut, tries to regroup in the wake of zero viable suspects, Tom Kramer makes it his mission to find Jenny’s rapist, jumping on every slim lead, like the sighting of a blue Honda Civic near the party. The introduction of one of Alan’s other patients, a soldier who endured the same treatment as Jenny, merely clutters an already busy story whose resolution is anything but satisfying.
A repugnant narrator, even an unreliable one, makes it difficult to focus on the true victim, one who is crushed under the weight of this ridiculous plot.