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Try to Remember

Try to Remember

3.0 1
by Zane Kotker
"This is a powerful and courageous novel about a family struggling to know the truth about its past without being destroyed by it. You either need to read it or know somebody who does."
—Phyllis Theroux, author of California and Other States of Grace

Phoebe Fairchild—in her twenties, high-achieving, and her father's


"This is a powerful and courageous novel about a family struggling to know the truth about its past without being destroyed by it. You either need to read it or know somebody who does."
—Phyllis Theroux, author of California and Other States of Grace

Phoebe Fairchild—in her twenties, high-achieving, and her father's favorite—is unaccountably depressed. Her new therapist, Sahra Meehan, becomes her lifeline, and with Sahra as her guide, Phoebe begins to uncover what she believes are childhood memories of her father: an inappropriate touch here, a look there, then more. Phoebe's parents are at first unbelieving and then shattered when Phoebe accuses her father of sexual abuse, and Claire and Harvey Fairchild's loving marriage of twenty-five years is thrown into question. When Phoebe tries to involve her sister, Bess, in the therapy, the family is in danger of splitting apart completely. Insightful, richly detailed, and wonderfully written, Try to Remember is a harrowing novel about the heart of an American family, and how good intentions can threaten to destroy so much.

"Vibrant with insight. . . . Try to Remember is that unexpected miracle: a morality tale that doesn't preach, as well as a riveting psychological whodunit; and a bittersweet meditation on family and the depth of parental obligation."
—Madeleine Blais, author of In These Girls, Hope Is a Muscle

"Try to Remember is a compelling story. . . . Kotker understands that she is writing about a complicated cultural as well as psychological phenomenon, and she does it with superb sensitivity."
—Joan Jacobs Brumberg,author of The Body Project: An Intimate History of American Girls

"No parent will remain unshaken by Try to Remember, but in today's world—when sexual abuse within the family is suddenly a much-discussed topic—perhaps every parent and older child should read it."
—Susan Allen Toth, author of How to Prepare for Your High School Reunion: And Other Midlife Musings

"Zane Kotker's novel Try to Remember is a psychological thriller that's both timely and timeless. Pertinent as this morning's headlines, the book is a compelling read, which Kotker's stylistic gift transforms into a work of art."
—Hugh Nissenson, author of The Tree of Life

"What I love about Try to Remember is that it immerses you in a beautifully written novel, and it also gives insights into the delicate inner workings of a young woman and a family. "
—Elizabeth Loftus, Ph.D., professor of psychology, University of Washington, and co-author of The Myth of Repressed Memory

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Timely and trenchant, Kotker's (Bodies in Motion) examination of family dynamics in an era of confrontational blame is a gripping read. The Fairchilds are a seemingly perfect contemporary American family, with doting parents in Philadelphia and two bright but somewhat pampered adult daughters, dramatic Phoebe and analytical Bess, pursuing careers in New York. After a painful breakup with a boyfriend, depressed Phoebe is encouraged into therapy by her roommate. Her well-intentioned therapist, a young intern, is convinced by her supervisor that Phoebe's symptoms indicate prototypical childhood sexual abuse syndrome, and she coaxes Phoebe into recollections of molestation. When Phoebe confronts her parents with this accusation, hazy memories and self-doubt lead to anguish all around. The rest of the family finds that they are no match for credulous Phoebe's zeal in exposing the atrocities that no one but she believes can have happened. Kotker is adept in portraying family relationships, and especially the tensions between the generations. But her skeptical treatment of Recovered Memory Syndrome sometimes approaches psychological melodrama. (Sept.)
Library Journal
At 25, Phoebe Fairchild is unhappy about her life in general; could her father have raped her years earlier? First child of a comfortable Philadelphia family, Phoebe was a daddy's girl who (like her younger sister, Bess) lacked for little as she grew up. Making her way in a menial job in New York City, Phoebe is convinced by a manipulative therapist, who fits symptoms into the prevailing mold, that she either remembers childhood sexual abuse or is repressing it. The accusations rend the Fairchild family: Bess heads for the West Coast, and parents Claire and Harvey separate, for doubt lingers behind their shared disbelief and anger. Kotker (White Rising, 1981) has produced a sensitive, finely crafted, portrayal of two generationsempty-nest parents and their grown children foundering in their new independenceand of a tragedy that alters their lives irrevocably. A heart-wrenching illumination of the false-memory syndrome, for all fiction collections.Michele Leber, Fairfax Cty. P.L., Va.
School Library Journal
YALife has been changing for the Fairchilds as Phoebe, in her 20s, is now out on her own in New York City and her younger sister, Bess, is newly graduated from college. This congenial family is more radically affected when Phoebe, at the instigation of a therapist with a hidden agenda, accuses her innocent father of sexual abuse and her mother of being an enabler. The family dynamics, though capable of restoration, are forever changed. Told from the viewpoints of all four individuals, this is an insightful cautionary tale. Highly engaging and suspenseful, it arouses both sympathy and outrage in readers.Frances Reiher, Fairfax County Public Library, VA
Kirkus Reviews
A woman's imagined memories of sexual abuse nearly tear her family apart—in a disappointingly strident fourth novel by Kotker (White Rising, 1981, etc.).

Phoebe Fairchild, a sensitive young woman who aspires to be a documentary filmmaker, becomes unsettled when her younger sister Bess arrives to stay with her in New York. Phoebe has always felt competitive with beautiful, vibrant Bess, and when a relationship with a troubled and vaguely abusive boyfriend plunges Phoebe into an even deeper depression, she turns to therapy for help. Unfortunately, her therapist, the selfish and manipulative Sahra Meehan, has her own agenda: She not only wants to advance her career but to further her romance with a well-known psychiatrist who's done work on recovered memory. At Sahra's bidding, Phoebe begins to "remember" episodes of sexual abuse by her father—first only isolated incidents, then a long pattern of abuse. Eventually, Phoebe confronts her parents, Harvey and Claire, with the information; and, when they deny everything, she breaks off contact. Devastated, the Fairchilds begin to question what they did wrong in raising their daughters. Meanwhile, Phoebe tries to enlist Bess in support of her story, but her sister is skeptical and prefers to continue her quintessentially GenX existence, taking off for the Pacific Northwest in a van paid for with her parents' money. It's never quite clear why Phoebe, a well-educated, self-aware adult, is so thoroughly gullible, but when she refuses to back down—and Sahra pushes her relentlessly to reveal more—the tension will have some unhappy consequences.

Kotker has a real gift for portraying family dynamics, but, here, her talents are overshadowed by her movie-of-the-week material.

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
Edition description:
1 ED
Product dimensions:
6.47(w) x 9.57(h) x 0.99(d)

Meet the Author

Zane Kotker is the author of three previous novels. She lives in Northampton, Massachusetts.

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Try to Remember 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Kottker's 'White Rising' is a historical novel based on the history of New England's King Phillip's War of the mid 1600s in conjunction with historical info obtained from deceased Plymouth Plantation Wampanoag historian Nan Apashamen...