“Everything she Forgot” by Lisa Ballantyne – Book Review

“Margaret Holloway, deputy head teacher, mother, wife, did not know what had happened to her when she was a little girl, and she was terrified to find out”.

Everything she forgot” was also published under the title “Redemption Road“.

Blurb: They’re calling it the worst pile-up in London history. Driving home, Margaret Holloway has her mind elsewhere—on a troubled student, her daughter’s acting class, the next day’s meeting—when she’s rear-ended and trapped in the wreckage. Just as she begins to panic, a disfigured stranger pulls her from the car just seconds before it’s engulfed in flames. Then he simply disappears.
Though she escapes with minor injuries, Margaret feels that something’s wrong. She’s having trouble concentrating. Her emotions are running wild. More than that, flashbacks to the crash are also dredging up lost associations from her childhood, fragments of events that were wiped from her memory. Whatever happened, she didn’t merely forget—she chose to forget. And somehow, Margaret knows deep down that it’s got something to do with the man who saved her life.
As Margaret uncovers a mystery with chilling implications for her family and her very identity, Everything She Forgot winds through a riveting dual narrative and asks the question: How far would you go to hide the truth—from yourself…?



2013 – Margaret Holloway works in a ‘Learning Support Unit’ of a school and is very devoted to her work and her students. She leaves the school late one afternoon to return to her husband Ben, and her two children when she is involved in a terrible multi-vehicle accident. She is trapped in her car, but a courageous stranger breaks the window out and saves her from certain death. Her savior disappears into the melee and she has no chance to thank him or make sure he gets the medical aid he needs.

After the crash, Margaret is unsettled. She cannot concentrate. She fears she is suffering from PTSD.

“The McLaughlin were still synonymous with fear in Glasgow.”

1978George McLaughlin is charming, tall, dark, handsome and illiterate. He has a good heart. That does not serve him well because he is the youngest son of Glasgow’s most intimidating and ruthless criminal, Brendan McLaughlin. An enforcer, a heavy for the top loan shark in the city, he works terrorizing and murdering, at home Brendon rules his wife and his children with an iron fist. Quite literally.

“Brendan expected to be obeyed with religious observance.
Black was white if he said so.”

George meets and falls in love with a local girl, Kathleen.  When she falls pregnant, her family are scandalized and completely forbid her to have any more association with that ‘criminal family’. Though Kathleen does love George, she knows it is for the best.

Thurso, Scotland

1985 – Kathleen is now married to an older, kind, and loving man named John Henderson. He has moved Kathleen and her daughter Moll up to Thurso, in Northern Scotland.  They are a happy family. Until… Moll is abducted on her way to school…

After all these years (Moll is now seven years old), George McLaughlin, now aged twenty-seven, wants to see Kathleen and his little daughter. He has never stopped loving them both.  When he gets to Thurso, he discovers that Kathleen has a nice big house, a nice car, and she looks happy.  Despondent, he begins to leave the little town when he sees some girls bullying another girl. The girl being bullied is Moll. Of course, he comes to her rescue. Then impetuously, he makes a life-altering decision. He takes Moll.

Though frightened at first, Moll and George have a unique bond. He loves her dearly and would never harm her.  They set out on a road trip – an ‘adventure’. 

The sad part is that Moll’s loving parents, the police, and the general public, think that Moll has been abducted by a psychopathic stranger that has been known to take and murder little girls her age.  There is a nation-wide alert for any information pertaining to Moll’s abduction.

A local, small-time journalist, Angus Campbell, has made it his life’s mission to discover who took Moll. Don’t be fooled, he is not doing this out of altruism. He thinks that solving this case will bring him the recognition her thinks he deserves. Though he claims to be religious, he is a sexist, odious little man who abuses and belittles his wife and children regularly.  His part in this story would be more impactful that he would imagine, though not as he would have hoped.

Alternating between the time of Moll and George’s road trip, and the present time the narrative gradually culminates with Margaret’s memory returning.

This novel is an ode to ‘nature vs. nuture’. Just how much are we incapable of changing due to the genes we carry?  The author explores the subject with caring, with insight, and with empathy.

The story features two sane, loving, and balanced families. It also features two abusive patriarchal families – which makes the difference between them even more stark.

The characters were all well-developed and this reader connected with them on a visceral level. George McLaughlin was an astounding character whom I won’t soon forget.  The supposed villain of the piece, he projected such a loving and kind nature that belied his reputation and stature.

The reader knows Margaret’s memories before she does, and turns the pages with trepidation until the present and past collide with stunning effect.

I loved this book, and would highly recommend it to others.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel at my request from William Morrow/Harper Collins via Edelweiss for purposes of this review.

Read the author’s inspiration behind this novel.

Lisa Ballantyne was born in Armadale, West Lothian, Scotland and studied English Literature at University of St Andrews.

She lived and worked in China for many years and started writing seriously while she was there. Before being published, Lisa was short-listed for the Dundee International Book Prize.

Her debut novel, The Guilty One was translated into over 25 languages, long-listed for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and short-listed for an Edgar Allan Poe Award. The Guilty One was also the Autumn 2012 Richard and Judy Book-club Winner. “Everything She Forgot“a.k.a. “Redemption Road” is her second novel. She lives in Glasgow, Scotland

About Fictionophile

Fiction reviewer ; Goodreads librarian. Retired library cataloger - more time to read! Loves books, gardening, and red wine. I have been a reviewer member of NetGalley since October 2013. I review titles offered by Edelweiss, and participate in blog tours with TLC Book Tours.
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13 Responses to “Everything she Forgot” by Lisa Ballantyne – Book Review

  1. Pingback: Spell the Month in Books – SEPTEMBER #SpellTheMonthInBooks #BookRecommendations | Fictionophile

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  3. carhicks says:

    Nice review Lynne. Maybe it is my mindset right now, but this sounds very confusing to me. Was it easy to keep track of the differing families and plotlines? The concept of nature vs nurture has always been fascinating to me.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. macalder02 says:

    My poems are mine, but a good reading attracts me. and it is accompanied by mystery, enigmas and deep emotions, it can not be left aside. You make a great summary to be able to go through the book.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Hello Lynne. Do you know why this book has alternate titles? That’s pretty confusing. Thanks.


    Liked by 2 people

  6. Rosie Amber says:

    Nature vs. nuture, interesting concepts! Thanks for the review.

    Liked by 1 person

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