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  • Alisa Williams

What Rose Forgot by Nevada Barr

What Rose Forgot by Nevada Barr

I started reading Nevada Barr's National Parks / Anna Pigeon mystery novels last year and quickly fell in love with Barr's complex characters and beautiful descriptive writing. WHAT ROSE FORGOT is the first stand-alone novel by Barr that I've read, though she's written several (they're all on my TBR!).

All of the great aspects of Barr's writing that I appreciate in her mystery series are in this latest book, along with some unique elements that really made it stand out for me.

Rose Dennis wakes up disoriented, with no memory, standing in a hospital gown in an unrecognizable neighborhood. Turns out, she's run away from a nursing home, but she has no memory of being committed to one in the first place. When her whereabouts are discovered, she fights the orderlies tooth and nail, dead set on not being returned to a place she doesn't remember and is sure she doesn't belong in.

She feels betrayed by both her family and her body as she struggles against the restraints and the sedation she's subjected to once back under the care of the nursing home. Is she going crazy? Does she really have Alzheimer's like her family and the nurses say she does? What is going on?

Just as she starts to resign herself to her fate, Rose hears one of the hospital administrators say she won't make it through the week, which convinces Rose something sinister is afoot. She starts hiding her meds and planning her escape. But once she's out, how can she convince her family she's not demented? After all, isn't paranoia and multiple escape attempts pretty on brand for someone who's off their rocker?

Rose elicits the help of her computer-hacking hermit sister, Marion, and 13-year-old granddaughter, Mel, to help solve the mystery of what happened and why, but their search will lead them into even more danger as they accidentally uncover something bigger and scarier than they could have ever imagined.

WHAT ROSE FORGOT is told in present tense, with a single point of view (Rose's), which makes for a unique experience. Because of Rose's confused state at the start of the book, she makes for a pretty untrustworthy narrator. I spent the majority of the book unsure of whether I could believe her take on things, especially because the responses of people around her seemed pretty sensible considering Rose’s antics. As the reader, this created a lot of tension that I personally found fun to try to riddle my way through.

My only minor issue while reading is that there were quite a few characters and I had a hard time keeping track of them all, especially as most of the minor characters are pretty one dimensional due to only having the single POV. Whenever a name got thrown out, I found myself struggling to remember who this was and why they mattered and what I knew about them already, if anything. That was a bit frustrating, but other than that, this was a really fun read.

Rose makes for a fantastic character — feisty, funny, and someone you're rooting for the whole time, even when you're not sure if you should be. I also loved the pair-up of 60-something Rose and her 13-year-old granddaughter. What a fun duo! I'd love to see a whole mystery series around these two, with wise-cracking, code-cracking sister Marion making random appearances.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who loves mysteries, character-driven stories, and hilarious, sometimes over-the-top hijinks. This was a joy to read and unravel, and I won't be forgetting Rose, Mel, or Marion anytime soon.


This review originally appeared on NetGalley. I received a free Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) in exchange for my honest review of this title.

Alisa Williams is the managing editor of She blogs at, tweets at @AWWritesStories, and bookstagrams at @AllyWritesStories.

Photo by Alisa Williams.


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