All Is Forgotten, Nothing Is Lost by Lan Samantha Chang is a haunting, and creative novel about how there is so much more to people than what is presented. The novel is fluid and almost dreamlike at times, making the text flow as if the story is taking place right in front of you. Chang does not waste time on flowery descriptions or unnecessary character development. The story structure and the characters are bare boned and structurally sound. This works with the story, because it is the raw and intense emotion that is the major focus of the story.
Roman is a poet who left a lucrative banking job in order to pursue his writing career. While in grad school, he becomes friends with other members of his class, specifically the eccentric and almost ethereal, Bernard. The connection that the two have in school goes well beyond the superficial as they are intellectual counterparts as well as friends, and this relationship continues on throughout their lives.
Their teacher, Miranda, a famous poet and harsh critic, becomes a source of inspiration and conflict for the story. Miranda is closed down and inaccessible, but when she and Roman begin an affair, much comes spilling out. As the years continue, Roman marries another student from graduate school, continues writing, teaches, and raises a son. After winning a prestigious award for his work and after Bernard comes to stay with the family for a brief time, the truth about the past and the truth about concealed emotions begin to unfold.
Chang takes the reader through an emotional ride that is exposed slowly. The emotions described in the novel range from flat to heart wrenching. The fluidity of Chang’s words makes the transition between the extreme emotions the characters go through completely relatable. No strong emotional bond is ever really formed with any of the characters, but it almost doesn’t need to happen, as all are so removed into themselves even though they interact, that each really needs to be looked at individually.
I have read Chang’s other works, and while I enjoy them and her style of writing, I do feel that the way she presents her haunting tales is an acquired taste. This book is not for someone who is looking for an easy or forgettable read.
In addition to working on her own personal writing, editing Messy Magazine, and writing for multiple sites, Lauren is also currently pursuing her MFA in English. More of her work can be found at goldiesays.wordpress.com.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by W. W. Norton & Company. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.