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.
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.
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.