The One We Forgot to Love by Sandy Totten

The One We Forgot to Love by Sandy Totten, published by Quarter Castle Publishing, first got my attention with the storyline of mental illness as an “invisible opponent and the loved ones who share those struggles.” The story is that of a child with mental illness, as told through the first-person account of each of the four family members in a back-and-forth progression. Each chapter begins with the name of the family member and proceeds with the chapter being dedicated to the views and recounting of that character. The characters include the mother, father, an older daughter and a younger daughter. We meet the characters in the book’s prologue, which begins with the mother’s point of view. Mother, Adalynn, introduces the reader to her husband, Dexter, and two girls, Seraphina (Seri) and Ivy, born close together, within five years of them being married. They have a happy marriage; the family is close-knit.

We learn quickly within the first chapter, beginning in September 2017, that the girls are both avid hockey players, strongly supported in everything, including their athletic endeavours, by their parents. In this first chapter, narrated by Seri, now seventeen years old, we soon learn about ‘The Voice’ in her head encouraging her to withdraw from life, for her own ‘safety’ against germs, possible negative evaluation, self-doubt and worry. She hasn’t told her parents about it yet, but she reveals that it has been persistent and growing within her thoughts, taking more and more control away. ‘The Voice’ is also causing Seri to keep her family “safe from knowing about (it). …I had kept my dirty, frightening secret. That I was crazy. That someone I couldn’t see talked to me, and I was powerless to stop the never-ending barrage of self doubt (sic) and worry that was heaped on by the menacing voice.” The reader gets a picture of the silent suffering that is contained within Seri, and her struggles only become more intense as the story proceeds. The story progresses along in intensity, in current time, then wraps up with a final chapter, that is really an Epilogue, set in the future so we can spin back into the story, at this later date.

The story progresses with Seri reacting to her inner thoughts, the second daughter, Ivy, accounting for her feelings of being left out, the father’s feelings of helplessness, and the mother trying to hold it all together. Clearly, the family is headed for their tiny fractures to be blown wide open. What we see is a family searching for answers while trying desperately to stay together. In doing so, the author calls often upon God and prayer, making me think that this book could be a choice for a Christian reader.

While reading The One We Forgot to Love, the perspective offered by author Sandy Totten of each of the family members as they tell their story of living within a family where one member, a teenager, daughter, or sister, has a mental illness, was appreciated. I wished, however, that the family members had more of a distinct voice. Each voice sounded very similar to that of the mother’s voice, Adalynn. Try as I might to hear the other characters come through, it was as though Adalynn was narrating the chapters.

I feel conflicted with this story – there are parts that worked for me and parts that didn’t. The bringing forward of the mental illness into the suffering family worked.

Sandy Totten was born in Middle Musquodoboit, a beautiful valley in Nova Scotia and sings the word Musquodoboit every time she spells it, taking her back to her high school days. Growing up, Sandy lived in many different communities thanks to her dad being a carpenter, building and selling their homes and would continue to do so after she married her husband, who was also a carpenter by trade. Luckily, after having three children, she convinced her husband to settle down and has resided in Belnan for seventeen years where she loves to write and tend to her vegetable garden. Her love for books was discovered when she picked up a copy of Anne of Green Gables on a trip to PEI when she was just a little girl and she has been an avid reader ever since. She loves getting lost in a story and has burnt many suppers because of this.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Quarter Castle Publishing (April 6 2022)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 183 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1927625769
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1927625767

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Carrie Stanton has a BA in Political Science from the University of Calgary. She is the author of The Jewel and Beast Bot, and picture books, Emmie and the Fierce Dragon and The Gardener. Carrie loves to write stories that grow wings and transport readers everywhere.  She reads and enjoys stories from every genre.