Monday 5 May 2014

The Impossible Knife of Memory

Finished May 4
The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

This teen novel has high school senior Hayley Kincain as its main character. Hayley's mother died when she was just a baby, and she lived in this small town with her grandmother until the age of seven, when her grandmother died. Following that her life path becomes a little less clear, but she has spent the last five years on the road with her father, until he finally decides to move back to the house and town he grew up in so Hayley can spend her senior year in a real high school instead of reading textbooks in the truck and in hotel rooms. Hayley reunites quickly with a friend from the distant past, Gracie, but has more trouble adjusting to high school. She doesn't know the rules of how to act, and finds many of her fellow students' behaviour unappealing. Her introduction to nerdy Finn, first as a friend, then as math tutor and perhaps more, have her feeling less sure of herself and yet more connected to this town.
But Hayley's real struggle is with her father, a veteran of both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, suffering from his own demons in the form of post traumatic stress disorder. It is these disturbing memories that first drove the two into a nomadic life, and now brought them here. Hayley has been forced into the role of looking out for and after her father, loving him fiercely, but always wary of what he will do next. As his behaviour grows increasingly erratic, she is finally forced to look to her own past and reach out for help to those who care about her.
Once I started reading this book, I could barely put it down. Hayley has all the inner concerns of any girl her age, plus the burden of her father's illness. She is a character that is finely drawn, and that I quickly grew to care about. Her struggles brought me both tears and laughter, and her father's PTSD is revealed in all its complexity. His flashbacks show the experiences that brought him to where he is now.
A wonderful book.

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