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You'll Forget This Ever Happened Summary and Reviews

You'll Forget This Ever Happened

Secrets, Shame, and Adoption in the 1960s

by Laura L. Engel

You'll Forget This Ever Happened by Laura L. Engel X
You'll Forget This Ever Happened by Laura L. Engel
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About this book

Book Summary

Full of both aching sadness and soaring joy, You'll Forget This Ever Happened is a shocking exposé of a shameful part of our country's recent past—and a poignant tale of a mother's enduring love.

Mississippi, 1967. It's the Summer of Love, yet unwed mothers' maternity homes are flourishing, secret closed adoptions are routine, and many young women still have no voice.

In You'll Forget This Ever Happened, Laura Engel takes us back to the Deep South during the turbulent 1960s to explore the oppression of young women who have committed the socially unacceptable crime of becoming pregnant without a ring on their finger. After being forced to give up her newborn son for adoption, Engel lives inside a fortress of silent shame for fifty years—but when her secret son finds her and her safe world is cracked open, those walls crumble.

Are you still a mother even if you have not raised your child? Can the mother/child bond survive years of separation? How deep is the damage caused by buried family secrets and shame? Engel asks herself these and many other questions as she becomes acquainted with the son she never knew, and seeks the acceptance and forgiveness she has long denied herself.

Please be aware that this discussion guide will contain spoilers!
  1. Laura's parents and grandmother had very strong reactions to news of her pregnancy. Which do you feel were typical for that time and place, and which, do you think, were not? In what ways do you think parents today would react similarly, and in what ways differently?
  2. The author notes a riot in a nearby park, with the Black community demanding access to the whites-only beach. Had you heard about this protest, or others of the era? How do you feel protests today are different from those in the 1960s, and how do you think they're similar?
  3. Did anything surprise you about the era or about Laura's experience? Did you learn anything new?
  4. How do you think the story would be different if told from Laura's mother's point of view?
  5. How do you feel ...

You can see the full discussion here. This discussion will contain spoilers!

Some of the recent comments posted about You'll Forget This Ever Happened:

"If you care about this child, you need to let it go." Do you agree?
Skagitgrits shared an inspirational experience in her family and I'm so glad it worked out for them. Her parents were true gems. But I just don't see that happening for many young women back then, especially with how her parents were. ... - beckyd

A Note About the Epilogue
Thank you so much for this note about the epilogue. My heart goes out to Laura and her family. Laura is so courageous to share her story, even through her grief. - kdowney25

Another similar situation in Fiction
Hi Joyce, I am the author, Laura Engel. Thanks for this. I just read "Lessons in Chemistry" and enjoyed it so much. I wanted to thank you for this post. I am thrilled you felt our books were significantly similar. - laurae

Are you surprised Richard reached out to his birth mother? What would you have done in his shoes?
I am not surprised that Richard connected with his birth mother. Even if he only reached out to gather health information, I think he gained a family and maybe he needed that. We adopted my son at birth via a closed adoption (he's 10 now&... - turtlewoman

As a young woman Laura harbors a lot of resentment toward her parents, but especially toward her mother. Why do you suppose she directs her anger primarily in that direction?
Laura's anger at her mother from the very beginning was the result of of shaming Laura for being pregnant as a result of her "sleeping around"; putting a guilt trip on her by telling her that her pregnancy would "kill her ... - Joyce

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"You'll Forget This Ever Happened is a wrenching memoir that testifies to the unbreakable bond between a mother and their child; it contains an indictment of past practices regarding adoption." —Suzanne Kamata, Forward Review

"If Anne Tyler had written a memoir about being forced to give up her son for adoption in the 1960s, it would read like You'll Forget This Ever Happened. Laura L. Engel is immediately likable and draws you in with her warmth, but her gorgeous prose immediately transports you to the Deep South in the 60s. As a reader, you'll keep turning page after page; as a woman, you'll want to hug her. This is a brave memoir that'll make you weep happy and sad tears." —Lauren Cross, author

"Heart-wrenching but filled with purpose, this book satisfyingly unreels our emotions to the bright sounds of the 60s. Laura's richly detailed story makes us laugh, cry, gasp and pray for those caught in that cruel time warp that plunged unwed mothers into the lowest, loathsome level of 'proper' society. A film, of course!" —Linda Bergman, Screenwriter, Producer, Educator

"Nearly fifty years after giving up her baby, the past finds her. When Engel's son, now grown and with a family of his own, locates her, the journey moves from trauma and despair to joy, and through a bittersweet, imperfect healing. Engel describes it all with poignancy and honesty. This book is achingly lovely, written by a woman who knows her heart, makes up her mind, finds her way, creating a life on her own terms." —Lisa Shapiro author of No Forgotten Fronts: From Classrooms to Combat

"Devastating and stunning—alive with attention to the abundance of the heart—this memoir will stay with you." —Julie Maloney, award-winning author of A Matter of Chance

"Laura Engel tells her emotional and compelling story of becoming a pregnant, unwed teen in the Deep South in the 1960s, being shut away in a home for wayward women, and being forced to give up her first son to adoption. Then, after years of shame and guilt, she tells the heartwarming and inspiring story of reuniting with her long-lost son after forty-nine years. A powerful true story of historical, societal, and cultural stigmas against women, the complicated but strong bonds of family, the difficult road to self-acceptance and forgiveness, and the fierce love between a mother and her lost, but never forgotten, child." —Nina Neilson Little, author of Spirit Baby: Travels Through China on the Long Road to Motherhood

"You'll Forget This Ever Happened will break your heart and exhilarate your spirit. Honest and vulnerable while offering hope and love, Engel speaks to and for many young women of a generation that had little choice on how to cope with teen pregnancy at a time when shame was buried deep and heartbreak was never to be spoken of. Engel's prose is lyrical, and her storytelling is filled with rich and imaginative details. Endearing and heartwarming, this book is a treasure." —Madonna Treadway, award-winning author of Six Healing Questions: A Gentle Path to Facing Loss of a Parent

"You'll Forget This Ever Happened is a deeply moving, heart-wrenching, and visually alive memoir exposing the pain Engel experienced after becoming pregnant at a young age and being forced by her southern parents to give up her child. Ultimately the story is one of resilience, forgiveness, and acceptance, with an ending made for a movie." —Roberta S. Kuriloff, author of Everything Special, Living Joy

This information about You'll Forget This Ever Happened was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Reader Reviews

Write your own reviewwrite your own review

Jill

You’ll Forget This Ever Happened
I was a bit skeptical about whether such a complex story with such intense emotion could be told in just over 300 pages. The author’s story had me hooked in less than 50 pages as she bared her soul. She found a way to touch on how her decision as a teenager still continued to impact her during key points in her adult life. She did not mince words when writing about how her teenage decisions later impacted choices she made as an adult, choices that often required determination and grit to get through. As the story came to a close, I couldn’t help but want to know more about whether her spirituality helped her in any way in her later adult years, especially with the guilt and shame she carried for so long. The bittersweet ending is one that reinforces the importance of mercy, hope and never giving up.

caroln

A must read for women of all ages. . .
I must begin by saying I am ever so grateful that the current social status of this book’s situation has changed considerably. However, since I am the same age as its author, I remember vividly just how young unwed, pregnant girls were treated in the 1950/1960’s. If young woman didn’t marry the young man involved, she was subjected to an uncomfortable journey to a home for unwed mothers. This book resurfaced sad and often difficult memories I had long put aside. As a young woman of the 50/60’s, I was raised in a family that was deeply touched by this same subject. I am well-aware of trials and tribulations the surrounds an unwed young mother. In my family’s case it took many hours/days of deeply distressing discussions, many heated arguments between the unwed mother and her boyfriend, constant bickering between the mother and her daughter, and finally it settled down when the young couple married. Together they have not only raised the baby in question but three beautiful other children. This was not the norm for such cases; this couple now have been married for sixty plus years. Back then, an excessive amount of young, unwed mothers like Laura were forced into making the choice with no options. I could not help but feel Laura’s sorrow as she lived holding this secret in for decades of her life. I enjoyed reading Laura's story and I thank her for providing her readers an honest rendering of her heart wrenching experience. It should mandatory reading for every young woman as part of her sex education course in school.

Robin

You'll forget this ever happened
The book was well written and gave me insights about a topic I have wondered about and never had the experience of discussing with a person who had been through it. I have great respect for Laura Engel for sharing such personal and traumatizing story. But I was curious about her oldest son's illness of depression.

Terri

I Could Not Put It Down
Whether you lived during the 1960s and 1970s or not, you must read this book. It is a reminder of what life was like for women during that time. We did not have the choices that young women have today, we were often powerless. Laura L. Engel poignantly writes about her experience and the pain of her loss. Her descriptions are so powerfully written I could smell the smells, tastes the foods, and feel the pain she described during her time in "The Home". I rarely read a book in 24 hours, or stay up past midnight reading, but this book gripped me and brought back memories of that time, of the friends I had who went through something similar. This is a must-read. Loved it! And, I agree, this would make a wonderful movie!

Frances Ilnicky-Van Ameyden

Sticks and Stones
"Whatever will people say?" could be a sub-title for Laura L. Engel's novel "You'll Forget This Ever Happened."  In the 1950's and early '60's,  parents were cemented in their rules, and, from a teen's viewpoint, no amount of arguing (and really, there was very little of that!), cajoling, or trying a silence period would amend the rule, or their decisions.  Period. Young and pregnant, but unmarried, Laura Engel's pleading to stay in school for her high school senior year falls on deaf ears. Her parents' plan is set.  Engel definitively captures the emotions and thought patterns she and other similarly black-marked, unmarried, pregnant teenager's experience in the 1950's and '60's.  Her story is told with deep sensitivity, but her life experiences smack of unfair judgments made by unfeeling, merciless adults who seem to believe that she'll simply forget the unrelenting negativity showered on her by her parents and others during her pregnancy. Society pours salt on her wounds with the label "the incident" that is applied to her pregnancy and her unwilling, heart-wrenching surrender of her firstborn. All-the-while pining for her child,  it is no small feat that Engel pushes her memories down as deeply as she can in her adult years. Her overwhelming joy at reuniting with her adult son is palpable although marred by sadness. Laura Engel deserves accolades for reminding us that names and labels do hurt, and what other people think, say or do about our choices sadly can last a lifetime.

RebeccaR

Compelling Story with Wonderful 1960's Cultural References
For anyone who has ever met a person that was immediately interesting to talk to or picked up a book in a bookstore to glance at the first page and instantly knew that the book was one you just had to read, then chances are you will feel the same instant attraction to the first-person narrator in the memoir You'll Forget This Ever Happened. Now, don't let the genre of memoir hold you back if you happen to think that memoirs are not for you, because this book flows as smoothly as any literary fiction. The cover of the book features a subtitle of sorts that gives a hint to the conflict - a pregnancy in the 1960's and the mother-to-be is not married. However, the genuine voice of this frightened teenage girl is so authentic and realistic that readers will be gently pulled into the story, wanting to read just one more page (or 2 or 3) before turning off the light for the night.
One of the things I enjoyed a lot about this book were all of the 1960's to early 1970's cultural references, including popular music. I think the book will be appreciated most by the who avoid reading spoiler reviews with long summaries. Give this book a chance, and I believe you will be surprised at how much it pulls at your heartstrings.

...5 more reader reviews

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Author Information

Laura L. Engel

Laura L. Engel originally hails from Biloxi, Mississippi but moved to San Diego, California over fifty years ago. In 2015 she retired from a thirty-five-year career in the corporate world with plans to quietly catch up on hobbies and travel with her husband, Gene. Within a year an unexpected miracle took: her firstborn son—the child she'd been forced to relinquish to adoption in 1967—found her. After that, Laura stopped guarding her painful secret and started telling the world about the miracle of meeting her son. Laura is currently President of the San Diego Memoir Writers Association. She is also an active member of the International Women's Writing Guild and a member of San Diego Writers Ink, San Diego Writer's Festival, and SD Writers and Editors Guild. She has five adult children and ten cherished grandchildren. Check out her website at www.lauralengel.com. She lives in El Cajon, CA. Visit her at lauralengel.com

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