Forget Yourself: Redfern Barrett
A mask hides your face so that no one knows who you are and what you look like. But, what about hiding your past and plotting it out so that you have absolutely no memories of your life, who you are, your name or where you came from. Take a magic slate and create a picture or a simple design. With a flick of a wrist or just pulling the top of the slate the entire picture disappears as if it were never there. What would you do if your past was erased and you lived without an identity in a world that is defined by the four walls within your confined living space or within a community that has been created within its own caste system? What would you do if you wound up somewhere with other adults, devoid of their identity, confused and afraid? The place these people are confined to is referred to as The Collective and their names are based on a physical attribute that is indicative to that person as we meet and hear from Blondee, named because of her hair color. Others are named because of something written on their clothing or an attribute that might describe them. Each person within this world is there because they have committed some type of crime. Those with low-level crimes are separated from those who have committed moderate to more serious crimes. Each newcomer is place and sentences based on some type of sense of what they did or someone’s intuition. Crimes against property, sexual, robbery and others are classified according to their severity.
Within this story each character has a book where they write down things they remember. It could be something dealing with the weather, an animal or even a moment that comes to mind. These memories are placed in their book as if they are creating their own chapters and will be able to recreate what has been erased from their mind. Rules are made but who makes them? A community of people whose minds are as fragile and delicate as an eggshell and who could crack in seconds if not careful. When we meet Blondee we learn about her relationship with someone named Keradine and someone named Tie. Although these relationships are rather strange they help the reader get to understand her and know more about what her mind and thoughts are like from the little she reveals. Three men and a woman make up where she lives with all of their memories gone. However, for some innate reason all know how to care for themselves and understand their basic wants and needs yet have no idea why. As Blondee shares things she remembers like food, earthquakes or even the animals she remembers she records this in her Book in order to remember and hopefully build it. How do you establish law in an environment that is so chaotic and disorganized? What they all know and record is that they are all there because they committed a crime. Her fingers are long so she is deemed or labeled a thief. No one really remembers their crime or even committing one so how did someone or something put them where they are? Hearing Blondee as she receives her rations we understand that one person controls The Book, doles out the rations and decides on what you are allowed to choose to eat and if you are entitled to anything else. Living in a triangle or hut she has to find her own way. Finding friendship with two others and sharing the Book does help her to start remembering places, objects and things that can be added within the confines of the pages of this Book.
When Blondee’s memory is triggered and she realizes she sees a vision within the opening of her hut that of a woman made of stone chasing dogs and other animals. The after mist and the stench of decay that follows reminds her of death but she has no idea why. From this experience and having possession of the book we learn more about what has been inscribed by others when they write about songs, music, recipes and the meanings of things that they might have known but have no idea why. In a world that has been created for them and their penance being administered by others who decide how they live, what they eat where and why this is a world filled with prisoners who are trying to break free as Blondee lives within her own world desiring to be alone, not take on a mate at this point and leaving what some would say is the security of her assigned area to find out more about those that are distances away. What will she learn about the Moderates and those that have been labeled violent? Is this real or is this something that someone is writing in this Book and making it happen? Water and food just appear! People decide on your lifestyle and yet your mind is clear, your thoughts make sense but nothing else does. How do you live in a world that has no past and is recreating its own present? Remembering and sharing your thoughts would be more meaningful if you had someone to share them with. But, when isolated and all alone with what you are creating and your memories what kind of life is that? Will Blondee remember her first days there and those that she met? Will she begin new relationships or pretend to talk to those not really there? Could these people have been drugged, brainwashed or part of some kind of mind control game that presented them with no memories and erased who they were and not really defining who they are? What happens when your every thought becomes what is placed between the pages of a Book where memories flood into different minds and are shared within its pages? Whose life is it anyway?
Within the next two books we learn about Frederick we hear his voice, visit the moderates and least with him and learn about her relationship with Burberry and her love for both her and Frederick. In this world the people that are living there exhibit the same grievances, problems and flaws that we do in our world today. From drinking to gambling to trying to remember their pasts each step of the way adding to the Book and then forgetting. As Blondee becomes more comfortable in her own skin and life we learn of the many changes in their community, how the rations change, the losses and the gains and we begin to see a different side of society. But, there is more for her and the others to inscribe in the book as you read it long with those living there you realize that each entry relates to something each one of us should remember: Don’t pry into the lives of others. After a loss: Come back to yourself. There are many important entries that will make readers stop, think and pause for thought as you begin to wonder whether the author is trying to tell you, the reader to embrace who you are, remember to appreciate those you love and understand it could vanish in a split second.
Within the story we hear many voices and Blondee presents several not really knowing which one she really is, which world she is in and why when wanting to create change for those living in this place she is shunned, criticized and told to leave things the way the way they are and that changing anything or the course of any events or writing in the Book would be harmful to the others. But, Blondee wanted more and she wanted her memories back and would do anything, and she did to regain them. Something happens and the author reveals what is buried and uncovered which sets off a chain of memories that flood her mind and the end result will take her into many worlds. Who is Blondee? Is she Tanned, Tie, someone’s lover, wife, rich, poor, and a sister hoping to protect her brother? Who is she? That is something that you the reader will have to decide for yourself as you take the final steps and journey with her when she reveals the truth about what it means to Forget Yourself, have your mind and memories wiped out, why turning back is not an option, why the choices you make will affect more than just your life and how drifting between worlds might have taught her how to survive where she winds up!
Friends can change your life. Their thoughts can affect your every move. This is a story of love, hate, greed, despair, discontent, hope, and life, finding purpose, renewal and deceit. Living in squalor, living high, living moderate: Just living! Forget Yourself: Can you really? Some would like to but others like Blondee: will she ever remember? What happens when so many memories flood her mind and the reader takes many journeys to many places, meets many of her friends, lovers and learns some of the truths behind her life when you read this thought provoking novel. Forget Yourself: Why would you want to? Embrace who you are!
This is one novel that will make readers understand the importance of living your life as who you are. Following your own destiny and realizing that some people cannot deal with change, while others want to make this better. What will you write when it’s your turn to inscribe in The Book!
Fran Lewis: Reviewer