Title: Small Forgotten Moments
Author: Annalisa Crawford
Artist Jo Mckye has a long-term fixation on her muse Zenna. Whether painting, doodling or sketching, on paper or canvas, Zenna always finds her way into Jo’s artwork. Jo also suffers from amnesia due to a terrible accident in her past. Her disability makes her forget the connection with Zenna, until people around her offer reminders about this obsession who bursts out of the canvas. There might just be more to Zenna than meets Jo’s eye. As Zenna increasingly starts infiltrating Jo’s dreams, and then consuming her waking hours, Jo decides to look for the truth. What will she find out? And how much did she already know but has forgotten due to amnesia?
While the novel begins at an art exhibit, showcasing how much of an obsession Zenna actually is, the narrative then leads us to Jo’s childhood home and her confrontation with her estranged mother. Narrated from Jo’s persepctive, what makes Small Forgotten Moments striking is Jo’s inability to remember what she might already know. This puts the reader into the shoes of the unreliable narrator, rendering us as confused as Jo is about truth, lies, dreams, nightmares, reality and delusions. Just like a painting, Annalisa Crawford takes us into a surreal landscape where colors and memories try to form shapes out of fragments.
Although Jo is the primary character, Zenna is the actual protagonist/antagonist of the story. And the secondary characters like Jo’s mother and flatmate are the ones who lead the story in Jo’s absence of a coherent narrative. Jo’s usage of color to make sense of the world and her place in it lends a melodic beauty to the story structure. These were three striking features in Crawford’s style of writing, making Small Forgotten Moments an unconventional thriller that belongs to a mainstream genre but is out-of-this-world in narration.
Crawford’s prose is haunting and lyrical; like reading a verse novel. And starkly contrasts the dark theme of the story. I loved the concept of a muse-poltergeist and how the novel blurs the lines of psychological drama, thriller and horror. A very gripping and unnerving story. I love the cover and its relation to Zenna’s revelation to both Jo and the reader.
My only grouse was that certain sections with Jo’s mother tended to drag on – not related to the events at play, and not leading anywhere. Small Forgotten Moments could have done better as a novella with a more compact structure. I was reminded of Kealan Patrick Burke’s Blanky and its take on grief – addressing dark themes with poignant writing, and so stunningly elaborated within the limits of a novella. Small Forgotten Moments has an ingenious idea and is beautifully written, but several pages didn’t really add to the plot.
My rating: 4/5
I got the chance to interview author Annalisa Crawford about this book. Our conversation can be accessed here (or from the link below):