09 January 2014

Bullet Review: The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

The Impossible Kife of Memory by Laurie Halse AndersonLaurie 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.
Published by Viking Juvenile, 2014
ISBN-13: 9780670012091
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


bermudaonion 1/9/14, 9:20 AM  

This sounds like a terrific book that will resonate with lots of kids. So many teens carry more burdens than we know.

Daryl 1/9/14, 9:26 AM  

sounds interesting ... Anne Tyler's Saint Maybe is the last book i read about overwhelming problems that resonated with me

Amanda 1/9/14, 9:28 AM  

Wow. This sounds amazing. I hadn't heard of it before.

Kailana 1/9/14, 10:20 AM  

I had forgotten I read Wintergirls by her. I was thinking I had only read one book by her, but that makes two. I am pretty sure all the reviews of this I have seen are positive so I should check it out.

rhapsodyinbooks 1/9/14, 11:53 AM  

She always takes on the most difficult subjects! I find I have to prepare myself emotionally to read her books!

Sarah (Sarah's Book Shelves) 1/9/14, 12:08 PM  

I recently read (and loved) Thank You for Your Service by David Finkel (review: http://www.sarahsbookshelves.com/books-to-read/book-review-thank-you-for-your-service-by-david-finkel/), which got me interested in the topic of PTSD in soldiers. Impossible Knife of Memory sounds like the nonfiction version of TYFYS - definitely adding this one to my TBR list.

Sarah (Sarah's Book Shelves) 1/9/14, 12:10 PM  

Oops - I meant to say that Knife sounds like the FiCTION version of Thank You for Your Service!

LisaMM 1/9/14, 2:43 PM  

Her books are so thought provoking. I read Wintergirls and Speak, and I saw her on a panel at the Festival of Books in LA. She's amazing.

Anonymous,  1/9/14, 4:12 PM  

I think I've only read her Revolutionary War series, but I enjoy her writing, and this sounds excellent. I think I'll look for it on audio.

Mystica 1/9/14, 8:39 PM  

Sounds an amazingly good story though may be tough in parts to read.

Nise' 1/9/14, 9:40 PM  

I will always pick up a LHA book. Like Jill, I have to emotionally prepare myself to read her books.

Laura at Library of Clean Reads 1/11/14, 11:05 AM  

I'm waiting for this one to arrive from Penguin and I can't wait to read it. So far all the reviews I've read have been positive.

Vicki 1/11/14, 9:17 PM  

Sounds like a good but very emotional read.

Unknown 1/12/14, 11:34 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown 1/12/14, 11:36 AM  

I only heard about this one a week or so back. I read Speak a few years ago and found it to be really powerful, this looks like it might be as well.

Julie P. 1/13/14, 2:43 PM  

I can only imagine how powerful this one is.

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