In this revealing novel, a shattered family comes to terms with their unraveling after a young adult daughter uncovers memories of her abusive childhood.
As promising cellist and college freshman Rachel Moretti begins to navigate campus life, she befriends classmates enrolled in a course on gender and violence. Here, she participates in thought-provoking and heated discussions surrounding male/female relationships (“…toxic masculinity is so much a part of our culture that it seems normal, even funny”).
Soon, a seemingly innocuous conversation with a relative sparks Rachel to recall the possibility of her own father’s inappropriate attentiveness when she was a child. A train ride home seems the start of her prophetic journey as the wheels crank out a rhythmic “Did that happen did that happen …”
After Rachel’s confrontation with her father, truths surface, tensions mount, and an unfathomable admission brings Rachel’s tormented mother Colleen to realize that “Once you know something, you can’t unknow it.”
Madeleine Van Hecke’s work as a licensed clinical psychologist brings a genuine authenticity to these well-defined characters and their conversations (although a few interactions seem somewhat forced). The author’s fluid writing moves the narrative easily between Rachel’s dealings with a broken past and her parents’ crumbling marriage, and the juxtaposition of Colleen’s elder friend, who has dealt with a similar situation, provides insight and perspective.
The story is laced with religious elements as Colleen turns to God in times of need. From Virgin Mary and laughing Buddha statues, to solace sought in a string of pale blue rosary beads or a priest’s sermon about forgiveness, the components are valid, although their use sometimes feels excessive and contrived.
This is a novel about childhood trauma surfacing to create adult complications. Those drawn to tumultuous “house of cards”-style family drama, complete with well-defined characters who struggle to maintain their balance amidst feelings of love and loss, anger and betrayal, hope and sacrifice, should find Once You Know a cathartic and absorbing read.