Book Review #38: The Impossible Knife of Memory

The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I blew through this in two days while on a trip, reading between meals or bouts of sight-seeing, sneaking a couple chapters while we rested in the hotel. This isn’t a vacation read, but it is an important one.

Like many of Laurie Halse Anderson’s books, the premise of “The Impossible Knife of Memory” is simply described and masterfully executed. Hayley’s story isn’t plot heavy. It focuses mostly on the difficulties of day to day life in a place that’s unfamiliar, with a person you love but whose behavior you can no longer predict.

Hayley’s father Andy has trouble confronting his wartime memories and coming to terms with the violence that he’s seen. One of the most fascinating parts of the book to me was how Hayley’s behavior matched his when she was stressed or scared. Her methodical approach to danger, as well as the memories she suppressed or altered to suit her current reality, were a perfect illustration of how mental illness doesn’t just affect its victims. Hayley is as much a product of her traumatic past as Andy is, and it takes her time to realize it.

I didn’t spend a lot of time swooning over the romance, but I enjoyed Finn’s role in the story as Hayley’s logical but funny counterpart, reminding her that there’s life outside of caring for her dad. The secondary character I really enjoyed was Trish, who was just the right blend of well-meaning and regretful, learning from her own set of mistakes.

My only real complaint here was the lack of resolution regarding a couple minor plot threads. I was dying to here how Grace’s family situation shaped up, and whether she stopped needing her own vice. I wanted to hear what happened to Finn’s family regarding his dirty little secret. I want to know how Hayley and Andy’s relationship changed following his release from treatment, and if he was capable of being the parent again.

That said, I enjoyed “The Impossible Knife of Memory,” and I’d recommend to anyone who loves contemporary YA at a breakneck pace.

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