Friday, August 22, 2014

Book review: The Impossible Knife of Memory

The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

For the past five years, Hayley Kincain and her father, Andy, have been on the road, never staying long in one place as he struggles to escape the demons that have tortured him since his return from Iraq. Now they are back in the town where he grew up so Hayley can attend school. Perhaps, for the first time, Hayley can have a normal life, put aside her own painful memories, even have a relationship with Finn, the hot guy who obviously likes her but is hiding secrets of his own.

Will being back home help Andy’s PTSD, or will his terrible memories drag him to the edge of hell, and drugs push him over? The Impossible Knife of Memory is Laurie Halse Anderson at her finest: compelling, surprising, and impossible to put down.

Before requesting this one from the library, I knew very little about it. I’ve read some of Laurie Halse Anderson’s other books and follow her on twitter, so I saw the hashtag everywhere when this one came out and I guess it just stuck in my head.

TIKOM is a heavy book. The Hayley’s father is a veteran a couple times over. He suffers from (what I would call) PTSD and has a lot of addiction issues. He can’t hold down a job and isn’t really doing much parenting. Hayley is self-sufficient; she doesn’t like relying on other people and will do whatever it takes to protect her life with her father.

The Impossible Knife of Memory focuses on a population that isn’t often addressed in Young Adult lit -- veterans. I won’t say too much on this because I know there’s a lot of people who have a lot more experience with vets and their challenges after active duty, but I think they’re a forgotten / misunderstood population, and this book shines light on some challenges some (certainly not all) vets might face.

I think it also presented a realistic portrayal of addiction -- of not knowing which version of your loved one you’re going to meet when you get home, of the ways the addiction ends up poisoning all areas of your life.

Given the topic, it’s hard for me to say I loved this book. Guys, a lot of it is a downer. But it was incredibly well written and the main character’s voice is true. The characters in TIKOM are deep and people you come to care about. I ended up racing through, wanting to know what would happen to everyone. 

I gave The Impossible Knife of Memory three stars (but I was torn between three and four).

Have any of you read this one? What did you think?


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