Sofie Timm is the bravest 12-year-old anyone has ever met — and only Dante Buonarroti knows it. At their middle school in Hollywood, Florida, during America's Bicentennial Year, Sofie and Dante become "special friends" despite their differences and because of childhood traumas they entrust to each other in the telling.
Dante tells Sofie how he was brutalized on a daily basis in Brooklyn when he was six. Sofie's story is a horror beyond Dante's darkest imaginings: as a young child, she was sexually molested. Those violations ended when she was eight but her abuser has "promised" to "teach" her about sexual intercourse when she turns thirteen. And Sofie is already twelve.
These resilient adolescents have each other's back in an imperishable tale of friendship, survival, and love. Unforgettable tells a story silenced in our literature. It is a difficult story to tell, maybe one most authors dare not write. This author has written it.
John Lauricella's most recent novel is The China Plot. He wrote Unforgettable in 2016 and withheld it until May of 2023.
"Unforgettable is virtually autobiographical. It passes muster as fiction because several key elements are not, strictly speaking, taken directly from my life at fourteen and fifteen years old. No power on Earth or anywhere else will induce me to pinpoint those elements. I am not trying to be coy or to mislead anyone, only to maintain a basic presumption about fiction, or at any rate about my fiction: everything might have happened exactly as written. To insist that it all nearly did is not to insist too much.
"This story is one I've known for more than 35 years. I put off writing it exactly because it seemed too personal. Certain words, uncomfortably in tandem, perhaps are unspeakable, and maybe some things we just do not talk about. I must have accepted those axioms for a long time -- until my adhering to them came to feel like self-censorship. At that point, the problem framed itself as a question: "Is this story my story to tell?" I'm going to suppose that many readers will judge it is not. I wrote it well aware that I risked infringing on certain privacies, and that some -- at least some -- readers might be discomfited by the license I seemed to grant myself.
"To gain a measure of equity, I included a close account of physical and verbal bullying that I had experienced as a boy in Brooklyn. It is essentially word-for-word, act-for-act. It was all bad enough, yet not nearly as grievous as what Sophie endured. It felt, in comparison, fairly pale, obviously minor; yet to fabricate something worse -- mistreatment that would "match" Sophie's trauma (although only the most intimate kind of violation might do that) -- seemed dishonest. It is exactly here that Unforgettable becomes less of a novel and something closer to memoir.
Dante's version of Sophie's story is his essay in righteous justice. He writes it on her behalf. Yes, he tells his own story, too. It must be so: during the time that their lives run in parallel, each is a major player in the other's story. Their (almost) shared experiences of being victimized draw them into alliance. In friendship and something very much like love, they join forces to ensure that they do not become victims again.
"My motive in writing about these vile, hurtful aspects of human dysfunction is to bear articulate witness to transgressions about which we generally remain silent. Most of us are as mute as the grave about our intimate traumas. It is a reasonable discipline; modesty and discretion are admirable, and restraint in prose composition is highly prized. And yet, one can become a victim of one's own silence. Circumspection and euphemism fall short in confronting our pain from unconscionable wrongs. I myself cleave to the theory that repression of trauma is Hell's own byway to moral death. If we take refuge in reticence and call our hiding restraint, if we forever cloak the acts in implication and never name our abuser, the culprit skirts censure and we are left with frozen souls and an unresolvable, sickly feeling that it is we who have done something wrong. Please make no mistake, friends: Sophie Timm in Unforgettable does nothing wrong. She is a hero, the bravest kid God ever made."