Grief can bring out the ugly side of people, push us to our limits and make us act out of the ordinary. It can also reveal how far we’re willing to go in order to protect our loved ones. Luana Lewis’ latest psychological thriller, Forget Me Not, explores this dark side of human nature.
On the surface, Vivian had a perfect life – a devoted husband, the child she always wanted and a luxurious lifestyle. Her sudden death raises many questions to her family, friends and the police. What would make someone want to murder Vivian? Would she really take her own life?
Our narrator is Rose, Vivian’s mother, and she’s not exactly a conventional grieving parent. Being the manager of a neonatal unit requires working long hours and maintaining an emotional distance, meaning her family always comes second. Rose carries guilt and shame for pursuing her career and not taking responsibility for Vivian’s care all those years ago, and vows to watch over her granddaughter Lexi to make up for past mistakes.
The novel contains few characters, but it’s easy to suspect that several of them could have played a part in Vivian’s death. Ben is a devoted husband and doting father to Lexi, but when it comes to light that the apparently happy couple had a serious row the day before Vivian died, it seems possible one of them was having an affair. Perhaps someone acted before the messy truth emerged, resulting in Vivian being found dead in her bathroom.Rose discovers Ben receives regular visits from his ex-girlfriend Cleo, who was also Vivian’s former best friend. She has an unhealthy fixation on Vivian’s ostensibly flawless life. Vivian snatched away Cleo’s happiness when she stole Ben to craft her dream life for herself. Cleo is angry, vindictive and fixated on the past; she appears to have a good motive for murder and soon has Ben wrapped around her little finger. All the while, Isaac, the family driver, stands in the backdrop quiet and unassuming, knowing more than he lets on.
Rose comes to realise how little she actually knew about her daughter, from her secret history of anorexia to her treatment of Lexi. Despite the pain Rose feels, she accepts her daughter was no angel. She learns how her daughter manipulated those around her and used their weaknesses to her advantage. Rose is an intelligent character and she always seems to be holding back details, frustratingly pushing information that’s crucial to the reader to the back of her mind. Even though we get into the narrator’s head, we still don’t have access to all the knowledge we need. Lewis makes us tread carefully, never allowing us to trust or sympathise with anyone or to make solid conclusions.
The narrative is punctuated with chapters from Vivian’s point of view, divulging her ongoing battle with anorexia and her inability to bond with Lexi. Growing up in a council flat with a disinterested mother left its mark on Vivian, and she never overcame her resentment towards Rose. She constantly doubts her maternal capabilities and convinces Lexi she’s overweight. These sporadic glimpses into Vivian’s final hours stress how even those closest to us may not know us as well as they think.
Lewis’ background in clinical psychology has fed into these deeply flawed characters and the lying narrator, and her effortless writing style makes this story twisted and captivating.
Forget Me Not shows how we can look the other way when we see wrongdoing, and how people we believe we know can keep huge, life-shattering secrets. We may be able to lie to our families and our friends, but we know we can never fully deceive ourselves.
Forget Me Not was published by Transworld Publishers on 5 November 2015.