Bay Reads - September 2019
- by Scott Naugle
What Rose Forgot
By Nevada Barr
What Rose Forgot may be the first novel I’ve read where I needed a seat belt to hold me in my chair. It was a struggle to resist the urge to stand up and root for Rose through one heart-pounding life or death situation after another.
It is evident after just a few pages into the novel that Nevada Barr is a master at the craft of suspense and mystery writing. This is no small feat, as creating and sustaining a narrative line of unbroken tension and mystery across almost 300 pages requires a practiced and mature literary ability.
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After a career change, Barr became a park ranger, first assigned to the Natchez Trace Parkway in Mississippi. She created her best-selling Anna Pigeon mystery series based on her experiences working in a national park.
In addition to the Anna Pigeon series of novels, Barr also published the novel Bittersweet, set in the early days of the Western frontier and the nonfiction Seeking Enlightenment… Hat by Hat: A Skeptic’s Guide to Religion.
The main character in What Rose Forgot, Rose Dennis, in her late sixties, was placed in the Memory Care Unit of Longwood Nursing Home just a few weeks after the death of her husband. He was mauled by a bear while on a hiking trip celebrating his eightieth birthday.
Always a free spirit, artistic and quirky, her increasingly erratic behavior after her husband Harley’s death motivated someone to commit her to a care facility.
Why and how she was committed to Longwood is at the heart of the What Rose Forgot.
Every small movement and resultant sensation are detailed much like a practiced performer perfects her stage-craft, aware of how movement matters to the audience.
And how refreshing it is to have a mature heroine, in other words, a vibrant, intelligent, active character, Rose Dennis, pushing seventy years of age. After escaping from Longwood the first time, “Night air, warm and soft, sinks into her, a balm for a sore body and a troubled mind… Fresh real air is sustenance for the spirit, filled with life-affirming qualities scientists will never discovering windowless laboratories.” Rose is a sexagenarian excited and optimistic to be alive.
Grabbing the knife from an attacker, Rose severs his finger. She crawls through shrubbery and undergrowth to hide in a child’s playhouse overnight. Rose re-enters Longwood in costume and subdues a night nurse twice her size.
And she cogently and logically thinks through the chain of events and the whiff of a few clues, to figure out who and why this was done to her. Age did not diminish Rose Dennis. Barr creates an extremely believable older female hero who becomes the heart and soul of What Rose Forgot.
I read What Rose Forgot in one sitting. I had to. Nothing else mattered to me until Rose Dennis thwarted the bad guys and solved the mystery.