Laurie Halse Anderson is known for bringing important issues to the forefront, inviting discussion. In her just-released The Impossible Knife of Memory, Anderson addresses the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) on contemporary families.
Much of what I loved about Anderson's Wintergirls (the only other book of hers I've read) is found in The Impossible Knife of Memory, especially the idea that regular people often face the seemingly overwhelming problems we assume happen only in the newspaper and on TV. For young Hayley Kincain, her father's PTSD is made all the worse because she is her father's only caretaker.
- General plot. Hayley Kincain may appear to be a normal seventeen-year-old, but her life has been been anything but conventional. She's been living on the road with her father, Andy, who suffers from severe PTSD as the result of serving four tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. When Andy decides to give up truck driving to settle down in his home town, he expects Hayley to attend the local high school while he looks for a job. Although Hayley's grown accustomed to watching her father's moods like a hawk, she is finding it increasingly difficult to manage him on her own. As Andy sinks deeper in drugs and depression, wracked with survivor's guilt and plagued by his actions in name of war, Hayley must work harder to hide her home life from concerned teachers and even from her friends.
- Hayley. Hayley is one conflicted teen: Experience has taught her not to trust anyone because almost every adult she's known has either died or abandoned her, except her father, who is hardly a reliable guardian. Yet she still craves some kind of stability, so when friendship and even love is offered, she hesitatingly accepts them. At the same time, she remains very protective of her dad, even as she hates the shell of a man that he's become.
- Overall thoughts. The title, The Impossible Knife of Memory, carries the meaning of the novel: We think we can decide what we choose to remember by cutting out parts of our memory, and yet the knife we use will not cut true or permanently. Memories swim to the surface, sometimes turning the knife around, cutting us to the quick. Laurie Halse Anderson has written a powerful, unforgettable look at the after effects of war on families, the strength of friendship, and the importance of never giving up hope.
- The audiobook. The unabridged audiobook (Brilliance Audio, 9 hr, 10 min) is read by Julia Whelan with Luke Daniels. Whelan's performance enhances the emotional impact of the novel, with excellent pacing and consistent characterizations. Daniels reads the few sections from Andy's point of view. My full audiobook review will be available from AudioFile magazine.
Source: Review (see review policy)
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