In 1940s Boston, Rose Gabrielli, a tough girl who “ran around with men” is sent to a women’s prison by her shamed father. She dies there, reportedly by her own hand. But her family suspects that she was murdered, because “she knew something” about the goings-on at the prison—“something terrible.”
In later years, Serena Deitzhoff, another tough young woman—and daughter of the prison’s one-time psychologist—mysteriously disappears after her mother’s suicide, generating rumors in her hometown.
And in the present day, in the same town, teenager Dana Griffin is immersed in her own set of troubles and heading quickly down a path of self destruction.
Bringing together these three stories is Dana’s mother, Rebecca Griffin, the protagonist of Deborah Docette’s briskly paced and thought-provoking début novel, The Forgotten Roses. A real estate agent, Rebecca is in charge of selling the home of Harold Deitzhoff, Serena’s father and the former prison psychologist. As she visits Deitzhoff, whose failing physical and mental state echoes the deteriorating condition of his house, Rebecca finds herself haunted by her family’s stories of Rose, a distant relative. And she begins to be troubled by questions: Did these stories have any basis in fact? What about the “respite therapy” that Deitzhoff was said to offer prison inmates, like Rose, at his home? Was it the beneficial intervention it was claimed to be or something far more sinister? Finally, why did Serena Deitzhoff disappear? And what was behind her mother’s suicide?