by Brenda Celina García Ramos
Alejandra Algorta's debut novel evokes the richness of memory, belonging, and heartbreak in this poetic and evocative new novel.
Alejandra Algorta’s new book Neverforgotten is poetic prose about a young boy named Fabio, who feels almost invisible riding his bike through the streets of Bogota until the day he forgets. The day Fabio forgets how to ride his bike marks the beginning of an introspective and reflective journey for the young boy. Throughout the story, Fabio struggles to figure out how he could lose the memory of something so important to him and he begins to question what other skills he might forget. After days of unsuccessful attempts, Fabio begins to wonder if he will ever be able to ride his bike again.
The implication of loss through memory provides an opportunity for Fabio to gain an understanding of his surroundings and the people in his community. Alicia, Fabio’s elderly neighbor, becomes an important figure in Fabio’s introspective journey. In one Fabio’s visits to see Alicia, she presents Fabio with the idea of trying to trick his mind into thinking that he never forgot how to ride a bike in the first place. The idea stems from her trying to escape her reality of living in the city by using her electric fans to pretend that she is living by the sea where it never gets cold. Alicia’s idea fails and poses questions on what can and cannot be altered in the mind? Is it possible to forget what was forgotten and in turn remember?
This book goes beyond Fabio’s sudden inability to ride a bike. This book is a sincere dedication to what the city of Bogota has become and what it used to be. The narrator describes the construction of Bogota by saying, “And because to create something you have to destroy it first; the dust was a memory of the things that were there before and which now waited to be turned into new things.” The deconstruction and construction of the city metaphorically connects to the deconstruction and construction of memory. Fabio needed to forget how to ride his bike in order to reconnect with his surroundings.
The illustrations by Ivan Rickenmann pull the reader into the city of Bogota before the story begins and takes the reader away from the city after it ends. This book beautifully encompasses the need to reconnect with our humanity and disconnect from the fast-paced environment in a big city. The only way Fabio was able to understand the world around him was when he forgot how to ride his bike.
This book is lyrically and metaphorically powerful in connecting the setting to the overall theme and philosophical tone of the story. Poetic prose was the best approach for this narrative because it provides a surrealism that mimics memory. Alejandra Algorta was able to use a subtle conflict of a boy forgetting how to use his bike and turn it into a poetically philosophical story.
Brenda Celina García Ramos is a Mexican and American reader who enjoys exploring books, places, and works of art.