ORIGINAL BOOK REVIEW: “Forgotten But Not Gone” by Barbara Peckham

OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION*:

Forgotten But Not Gone is an interwoven story about a married housewife and part-time librarian living in coastal Massachusetts in 1965. She is happy and very active in her life there. However, she has a background that no one knows about except her husband, George, and even he doesn’t know anywhere near the whole story. He knows that she has amnesia about her early childhood, but very little else.

All Liz really remembers is that, at the age of about fourteen or fifteen, she found herself running, panicked, down an Appalachian mountainside. She had no idea then, nor did she now have any memory of what had happened before that, what she was running from, or what had frightened her so much. Now she seldom thought about it. She had managed to get on with her life and what was past was past.

That is, until, one day a strange letter arrives in her mailbox. It appears that someone know things about her that she doesn’t even know, and it frightens her. Not long after, other occurrences begin, and they escalate more and more in intensity and danger. She is sure all this has to do with the past she can’t remember, and she begins to fear for her life. She has had, ever since she can remember, some silver teaspoons with initials engraved on them, and a diamond ring, but she has no idea whose they were or what the initials mean. Did she steal them? Is someone finally going to find her? Then a teaspoon exactly like hers turns up in the collection of a friend. Where did she get it? How are they connected?

Still, try as she might, all she can remember is that she ran until she came across a hardscrabble farm, where an elderly couple took her in. They treated her like the daughter they had lost. She stayed and worked the farm with them until, after a few years, they died, one shortly after the other, and she was forced to leave the only home she remembered to go out on her own with few resources and little education. The years following were years of hard work and night school.

The story weaves back and forth between the present, [with] Liz revealing more of her past, a mysterious man who has come to town with a vengeance, and a young woman who has in her possession another of the silver spoons. All comes together at the end with a terrible fire, and the truth comes out.

REVIEW:

Once upon a time, a girl stumbled out of the thickly forested Appalachian foothills and into the lives of an elderly couple on a small farm. Uncertain of what had happened before she entered the forest, her exact age, and even her own name, the girl is dubbed “Nell” and nurtured by the Ekburgs until their deaths send her out into the world, ready to make a new life for herself under a new name, and equally determined to make new memories to replace the ones she’d lost.

Thus begins the story of Forgotten But Not Gone: The Silver Spoons, a new cross-genre historical fiction plus mystery novel from Barbara Peckham. The novel leaps twenty-odd years into the future, and catches up with Nell, now Mrs. Elizabeth (“Liz”) Everson, living a calm life as a part-time librarian and housewife just prior to Halloween in 1965. And yes, a set of silver spoons really does connect the dots between the stories of Nell/Liz/? and those of the book’s other point-of-view characters, including her husband George, the young Joyce, Liz’s new friend Elaine, the local police chief, and an unnamed mystery man who thinks he knows exactly what happened during Liz’s forgotten years––and is determined to punish her for it.

Told in a combination of straightforward narrative and flashbacks from their prior lives, Forgotten But Not Gone: The Silver Spoons perfectly melds those elements it borrows from historical fiction and cozy mystery genres. Peckham has an eye for detail, walking her readers back through the years to a time when phones were analog and had those spiral cords (you still can find them for sale as ‘antiques’ on Etsy, which makes me feel absolutely ancient), and when people sent letters that were made of actual paper. She also embraces all of the pomp and circumstance (and obsessive planning) behind many a community celebration of the variety still common in older, tourist-friendly East Coast shore towns. As a librarian, Liz enlists Elaine and her other Book Club friends to assist in organizing Seaside’s Christmas parade and neighborhood gathering––a subplot that is blessedly free of the sinister elements that are becoming routine in the Everson household all of a sudden. It is here, with her friends around her and a project to complete, that Liz’s fundamental personality really shines––and her natural aptitude for winning people over. It’s only when Liz returns home that she is haunted by danger, and the nagging feeling that someone is out to get her for things she can’t even remember begins to sink its claws into her mind.

So, what happened in those years she’s forgotten? I can’t tell you exactly, since to do so would be an unforgivable spoiler, but Peckham weaves together the various elements of the novel into one, cohesive, and compelling story of fractured and found families, suspense and seeking sanctuary, and the making of a whole and complete life.

At a time when the world seems to be either on fire or consumed by some other tragic breaking news, Peckham invokes an era when the local police were also neighbors and friends, when daily life felt comfortable like a favorite sweater, and when libraries were the surest place to discover critical information in a mystery so old the trail is beyond cold––it’s pure ice. And I find this somewhat ironic, given that fire and ice (or at least, icing bruises) are common themes in Forgotten But Not Gone: The Silver Spoons. I heartily encourage you to take a peek at this novel if you liked Big Little Lies but wished that people would just talk to each other and figure out a solution together, or if you find yourself hankering for a seasonally appropriate read in the months between Halloween and Christmas. After all, we all need a satisfying spook every now and then.

IN SUMMARY:

Compassionately written characters learn crucial details about their own lives in this cozy, genre-bending novel from Barbara Peckman. Forgotten But Not Gone: The Silver Spoons is exactly the right book at the right time for those of us who love old houses and old towns and old memories relived.

WHERE TO BUY?

You can find Forgotten But Not Gone: The Silver Spoons wherever good books are sold, including Amazon and WalMart. You can also find out more about Joseph Bylinski’s work on the book’s Outskirts Press author page.

WHAT NEXT?

I’m digging into Rambling With Milton next, a novel that follows a journalist and columnist whose youthful ideals about romance remain unfulfilled after a long and successful career. A significant chunk of this romantic work of fiction is set around a Christmas play and the long road to recovery one woman faces as she falls in love. The premise is exactly the sort of thing to have me restocking my kleenex supplies, so I will update you with more information in the days to come!

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

* Courtesy of Amazon book listing.


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ABOUT KENDRA M.: With nine years in library service, six years of working within the self-publishing world, as well as extensive experience in creative writing, freelance online content creation, and podcast editing, Kendra seeks to amplify the voices of those who need and deserve most to be heard.

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