The Forgotten Ones- Steena Holmes

About this book: 36097621

In this novel from a New York Times bestselling author, the search for truth is defined by secrets and lies.

Elle is a survivor. She’s managed to piece together a solid life from a childhood of broken memories and fairy tales her mom told her to explain away bad dreams. But weekly visits to her mother still fill Elle with a paralyzing fear she can’t explain. It’s just another of so many unanswered questions she grew up with in a family estranged by silence and secrets.

Elle’s world turns upside down when she receives a deathbed request from her grandfather, a man she was told had died years ago. Racked by grief, regrets, and a haunted conscience, he has a tale of his own to tell Elle: about her mother, an imaginary friend, and two strangers who came to the house one night and never left.

As Elle’s past unfolds, so does the truth—if she can believe it. She must face the reasons for her inexplicable dread. As dark as they are, Elle must listen…before her grandfather’s death buries the family’s secrets forever.

Release Date: 1st April, 2018.

4-star

What I think?

One of the biggest things that this book forced me to ask was “Can a parent not recognize his own child?”

The Forgotten Ones by Steena Holmes is a powerful novel. Allow me to be cliched and say that from the very first page it had gripped me, and forced me into the mystery it was weaving- slowly and steadily. This is the first book I’m reading by Holmes, and I have to say, she’s a very compelling author. It was very evident from the first page that this book was masterfully written, and not until the last page did I think otherwise.

The story of The Forgotten Ones is told from the POV of two characters- Elle (the grand daughter) and David (the grandfather)- but despite that, it becomes very clear who the story is truly centered around-

Marie (the generation in between).

Elle grew up with a mother with mental issues and thinking her grandparents were both dead; but one day when she receives a letter from a man who calls himself her grandfather, her entire life is thrown off rails and she enters into a story where a family destroys itself for the sake of family.

I know what you’re thinking- what?! But seriously that’s correct. At the beginning when you see the world from the POV of David, you think/ at least I thought, that he’s being a tab bit too dramatic, and that’s warranted, what with him being cancer ridden and on a death bed. But as the story progresses, you realize just how insane mental issues can be, and what insanities a man could go to for the sake of the woman he loved.

If you plan on reading this book and don’t want it to be spoiled for you, then I suggest you stop reading this post. Read the book and come back, because there are going to be many questions in your head, and if you are anything like me, you wanna get some answers to them.

If you just want my judgement on this book then let me say that it was brilliant. I loved how deep this story was- ridden with so many layers and truths hidden in every nook and cranny of the book. I promise you, this is going to be a read worth the time you give to it.

And so you can stop reading this post in
three
two
one.

line

Still here I see? OK, if you’re curious as to what I’m going to talk about, it’s going to be about the plot lines in the book that were left open to interpretation.

Let’s begin with the mild ones first.

Gertie.
David’s wife, Gertie was very evidently the core of all predicaments in this world having inherited the mental issues from her mother. Her character was such a strange one honestly. Most of the time, I felt like there was no motivation whatsoever for her reactions, then it hit me that she was battling a lot of mental problems, and that was what made her so unpredictable. One of the biggest questions I have about her is why would she poison Judy.?Obviously she was very attached to both the girls, I just don’t see what might have instigated her enough to poison her, even if she wanted her still born babies to have a mother in her absence, it makes no sense for her character.

Elle.
I think that Elle is the portrayal of the reader. At the beginning, she knows nothing, and we are barely given any details about her that doesn’t have anything to do with her mother. And that is essential to the story, because as Elle slowly gets pulled into her own family drama, the reader is themselves getting pulled in slowly, because all they know is what Elle does. I don’t know if it was intentional on Holmes’ part or not, but nonetheless, it was absolutely brilliant.

Marie.
And now we are here at the heart of this tale, the biggest question mark that wrapped itself around this book like a snake. Aren’t you curious about who she is- Anna or Bella? I have some really strong reasons to believe that she’s Bella and not Anna, despite the diary that she uncovers at the end saying otherwise.

Reason 1. And this is the biggest one- she was terrified of Gertie poisoning her/ and just terrified of Gertie in general. Now why would Anna be terrified of her own mother poisoning her via the drink she gave her, unless it wasn’t really Anna and was Bella who was scared because Gertie had done the same thing to her mother which eventually killed her.

Reason 2. The painter. It was hammered again and again that Anna was the writer and Bella was the painter. I really cannot imagine Anna picking up the paintbrush after Bella’s death, unless it really was Bella who survived, and then lost her identity. I think, that Bella starts calling her dolls as Isabella just to keep a part of her alive. The imaginary friend Grace thinks she is talking to isn’t the imaginary friend, but two parts of her psyche battling each other.

Reason 3. Those little flashbacks into the little girl’s mind makes it so obvious it was Bella. Why would Anna wish Bella dead for being cruel, when it was her who was the cruel one? The guilt in Marie’s tone when she tells Elle that she wished Bella dead makes it obvious that who ever was the girl that wished the other dead is the one that survived, because I highly doubt both wanted the other dead. Plus one of them pushed the other down the creek. Bella wouldn’t do that. She herself was traumatized at the suddenness of the accident.

Reason 4. Gertie stopped calling Anna Marie as Anna and started calling her Marie. I think she knew which one of the girls survived, and in her madness somehow convinced herself that it was her daughter that did, and not the other one. But somehow still, some part of her knew the truth, so to placate both parts of her mind she started calling the survivor as Marie.

Reason 5. Grace insisting that Elle did not inherit the madness that her mother, grand mother, great-grandmother all had. I will bet anything that Grace knew that Marie was not Anna but Bella, and because Bella was not biologically descendant of Gertie, Elle would not inherit those same mental issues. It was clear that Marie’s dissociative disorder was a product of the trauma she survived as a child, and not the same as the ones Gertie and her mother portrayed. The signs and the symptoms are pretty clear. While Gertie’s are more on the line of being Schizophrenic, Marie’s head just takes her to a place where both parts of her- Anna and Bella fight to take control- Anna who was forced into the little girl’s body, and Bella who was fighting for her own identity.

Reason 6. The diary itself. The reason Marie gives to her being Anna is the diary she kept as a child where she wrote down her thoughts as Anna Marie. But think about this for a second- Bella Marie, who survives a murder attempt by her own sister, who has now been made Anna Marie by a woman she is terrified of, is confused of her identity? Imagine a 5 year old child who just woke up after a horrific accident, and is being called by her sister’s name, wouldn’t she be so confused that she starts to think of herself as Anna Marie? And wouldn’t the child who was in such a situation think of what her sister would think of? How far-fetched would it be for her to write them down? Hell, adults do that after they’ve lost someone, so why wouldn’t a child?

And if, if my theories are correct, then god this book is such a fucking sad story! David spent his entire life never knowing that the girl who died that day was in fact his daughter. But the even greater tragedy is, in the end, when you expect a happy ending, with all right in the world, Marie decides that she is Anna and not Bella. Because if Marie is indeed Bella, then Bella just got forever lost to the sister who first tried to kill her, and who she was then turned into by the very woman who killed her mother.

Jesus fucking Christ.

In this story, the forgotten ones aren’t Judy and Bella who were completely written out of history by a family that promised them sanctuary, but the truly forgotten ones are the little girl who first lost her mother, and then herself, and the grown-up woman who lost her identity completely to the very person who tried to kill her in the first place. The forgotten ones are the little girl Bella had been, and the woman Bella could’ve grown up into. The forgotten ones are the family of Judy that Bella never got to meet because she convinced herself that she was dead, and in her body- was her sister.

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About this author:

NY Times & USA Today Bestselling Author – Steena is the author of the heart wrenching Finding Emma series. The Word Game was included in the Top 20 Novels to be Written by Women in 2015 by Good Housekeeping. Her latest novel – The Word Game won the 2015 USA Books Award for Best Fiction and her novel, The Memory Child was a finalist in the same category.

Steena Holmes grew up in a small town in Canada and holds a Bachelors degree in Theology. In 2012 she received the Indie Excellence Award. Holmes was inspired to write Finding Emma after experiencing a brief moment of horror when she’d thought her youngest daughter was missing.

She currently lives in Calgary with her husband and three daughters and loves to wake up to the Rocky Mountains each morning.

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