Sunday 16 February 2014

The Impossible Knife of Memory

The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson (Text Publishing)
PB RRP $19.99
ISBN 9781922182227
Reviewed by Wendy Fitzgerald 

Laurie Halse Anderson lives in New York. She has written several novels for Young Adults. In 2008 she was awarded the prestigious ALAN award which honours authors who have made outstanding contributions to adolescent literature.

The Impossible Knife of Memory was inspired by Anderson’s own father who was a World War 2 veteran. This novel is based on a very real problem. What happens to war veterans when they return to civilian life and how does their behaviour affect their families and the people who love them?

Anderson’s main character, 17 year old Hayley Kincain has been on the road with her truck driver father, Andy for the past five years. In this book they settle in her grandmother’s house in a quiet town so Hayley can finish school.

Hayley’s father is a veteran of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. He’s plagued by addiction and haunted by dark memories of his time at war. Hayley has to fit into a new school while at home she has to juggle her father’s fits of rage, depression, drug and alcohol abuse and his inability to keep a job.

All the while Hayley wants to protect her father. She tries to fake a ‘normal’ home life. To the outside world Hayley puts up a tough and somewhat angry exterior. But as often happens, this tough exterior hides deep hurt, fragility and fear.

I think it’s good for kids to read stories that show how different people make sense of the world and how they cope with the circumstances of their lives. For example I liked the way Hayley divides people into Zombies or Freaks. I liked her friendships with Gracie and Finn. I admired her resilience, her bravado, her vulnerability and her strong love for her father.

The story is mainly told through Hayley’s point of view, but there are also small snippets and flash backs from her father’s perspective. I liked the theme of memory that is woven through the story. Hayley’s childhood memories blended with her father’s memories of war. The pacing was good and it held my interest.

I would recommend The Impossible Knife of Memory to mature readers 15 years and up. It does contain language and strong adult themes.

Laurie Halse Anderson tackles very hard subjects in her novels. Her book, Speak was a New York Times best selling novel about a young girl who was raped at a party while her very popular Wintergirls deals with anorexia and depression.                                                                                                                                                      

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