Friday, March 28, 2014

The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

If you regularly read this blog, you know that I (Andie) love Laurie Halse Anderson’s work. She writes some of the best YA fiction and historical fiction I have read, and I simply stoke up months out when I learn she has a new book coming out. Her new book, The Impossible Art of Memory, leaves no doubt of the prowess and artistry that she brings to the printed page. My months of waiting have not been lost.

Carefully living life with her not-taking-care-of-himself father, Hayley battles her juggling act of caregiving for her father and being a high-school junior. The two have just settled in her grandmother’s home (where Dad Andy grew up) after living life on the trucking road for a few years. Hayley never quite knows who or what she might come home to, given Andy's dismissal of PTSD medication and his seeming desire to continue living out the battles of Iraq in his mind and body. She detests school and regularly misses it. Ironically Dad isn’t the only one with some memory loopholes. Hayley brings her own struggles into the mix; her mother died when Hayley was young, and she struggles to make sense of the swiss-cheese like memories she holds as truth for her younger life. Add to the confusion a boy and the picture gets really jumbled.

But not in Anderson's hands. She ties The Odyssey with this story aptly and wisely, keeping her readers entrenched in authenticity of resilience and the desire to find some grounding somewhere, elusive as it may seem to Hayley. Like her other books, I loved The Impossible Knife of Memory, but maybe I loved it more because I understand PTSD on a personal level. Anderson must have done her research again for this text, just like she did for the incredibly brilliant and another of my total top faves ever Wintergirls. Fabulous, engaging writing. Maybe her intent to give us, her readers, a place to ground in the uncomfortable messiness of living amongst such trauma--if so, I feel grateful for the creating. I found a little more to access. 

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