I discovered this book on Kindle Scout. The preview made me long to find out what it was that Dora Culligan had repressed—obviously, something terrifying.
I bought the ebook as soon as it was available. It did not disappoint, except for the formatting. The book is double-spaced, which means twice the clicking; also, the chapter headings don’t line up well.
A Good Memory to Forget is a psychological thriller that tells the story of a dysfunctional family living on Martha’s Vineyard in the 70s and 80s. Through flashbacks, we see what it was like for Dora growing up with four older brothers who torment her relentlessly. Her parents are blind to the boys’ shenanigans and fault Dora for tattling.
The boys have a code of honor, “The Parent Pact.” If one of them gets in trouble, they lie their way out of it, or another brother will confess to the misdeed to throw their parents off. Little Dora is proud when her brothers initiate her into their pact. They jump in and take the blame when Dora gets in trouble. But now she can’t tell on them when she gets blamed for something they do; and she can’t tell when they hurt her.
The book begins when Dora is in her teens. Hearing a song from the seventies triggers a partial memory for Dora. She suddenly knows that she’s been living a lie for half her life, and it has something to do with the tragic death of her brother. As she pieces together her memory, she struggles with deciding what she should do with the insight she has gained.
Stockdale keeps us guessing throughout the story, revealing one small puzzle piece at a time, only to have us question its validity. Events are filtered first by an eight-year-old perspective, then processed anew by a more rational (or is she?) teenager. The conflict is not neatly resolved by the end of the book; the reader is left with two different scenarios that are equally supportable.
This is not a pretty story. As I read, I prayed that none of it was drawn from the author’s own experience. However, I was compelled to read it to its conclusion, and I know I’ll be mulling it over for weeks. A Good Memory to Forget is memorable, indeed.