Editorial Review: Nothing Forgotten by Jessica Levine
Nothing Forgotten, by Jessica Levine, is a complicated, emotional love story layered with a vivid travelogue.
At the beginning of the story, Anna is a married mother, content if not exactly thrilled with her life in California. When she inherits her aunt’s beautiful Roman apartment, Anna recalls the events of the year she spent in Rome in her early twenties. She hasn’t heard from her old lover, Sergio, in decades, but he reaches out with a note of sympathy for her aunt’s death and leads Anna to think over their tempestuous affair and the secrets she still keeps from her husband and daughter.
Thinking about her past leads Anna to reconsider her present. Anna’s husband, Michael, is inconsiderate, but not actually unkind, expecting his own schedule and his own needs to constantly take priority over Anna’s. This is skillfully done, and the reader is led to ask, along with Anna, if this is Michael’s entitled self-centeredness or just a little absent-minded lack of consideration in a long marriage. Anna’s love for her daughter shines through, even when she doubts her marriage.
Anna’s memories take us back to Rome in the 1970s, when she was a new graduate, working as an English teacher to fund her travels around the world. The travelogue sections really shine, full of both the overwhelming ancient beauty of Rome and the intense modern city. Anna’s crowd of ex-pat drifters comes to life, with parties and pairings of young people seeking adventure, excitement, and escape in foreign lands.
A mild warning for delicate readers: Anna’s youthful experimentation takes readers through some pretty racy scenes. These romantic adventures serve more to explore Anna’s character and morality and show her connection to one lover in particular: Sergio.
Even so, many years later, Anna recalls their relationship and romance in detail, and it seems more real to her than her marriage. Rome provides a beautiful backdrop for their emerging romance, and the framing of the story lets readers know right from the start that this will be Anna’s greatest love.
The only sour note was that a few times, I questioned their relationship. When Anna and Sergio first meet, he’s engaged, and he explains that breaking off his engagement would shame his fiance in their small town. Anna remembers their time together throughout her life as a doomed romance, but Sergio seems more two-faced than tortured in his younger years. There’s a satisfying conclusion with older Sergio, showing growth and awareness.
This love story also includes another kind of love: the years and years of support and understanding between Anna and her cousin Robin. Cousin Robin is mostly a support to Anna in her most difficult times, but this minor character is much more than a foil. This novel shows us how the young woman who lived abroad, traveled, and started a shocking affair would later decide on single motherhood and a non-traditional family situation, embracing her work, child and friendships whole-heartedly, and staying close with her cousin Anna.
Overall, this is an emotional story of growth, connection, and love, with vibrant, beautiful settings. Readers will see Anna learning to cope with her fractured family and with the decisions she’s made over the years, leading to a satisfying, uplifting conclusion.