The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson
Released January 7, 2014.
The amazing Laurie Halse Anderson returns with a book that is powerful, thought-provoking and personal. Hayley and her father just have each other. For the past five years after her mother’s death, they have been hauling freight in his truck. But now they have returned to her father’s home town so that Hayley can finish high school and live in a normal home. However, their home is anything but normal. Her father can’t hold down a job because of the images and flashbacks that come over him from his time in Iraq. He drinks to keep the visions at bay, but then blacks out and forgets what he has done. He has never hurt Hayley, but he is getting worse rather than better and Hayley is all alone in dealing with him. At the same time, Hayley is slowly making friends at school, particularly Finn, a boy who has his own family issues to contend with. As things at home get darker and more dangerous, Hayley has to figure out who she can trust to help, if anyone.
Anderson has written a book about PTSD and the traumas of being a soldier that speak to vets from any war. She herself was the child of a vet from World War II and has a father who struggled himself with these issues. Thanks to this personal connection, her book goes deep below the skin into the world of Hayley, her love for her father, and truly connects with the horrors of heroes who return home just to be haunted by what they have done and seen.
Hayley is a strong character but also deeply flawed. She is hidden behind so many protective layers that readers discover her as she gets to know Finn. She slowly reveals a bright intelligence and witty humor. Her relationship with her father is one based on adoration but also on pure coping with his disabilities. She herself has faulty memories and blank places that she refuses to focus on and think about. She too is hiding from her memories, but in her case they are the happy ones.
This book is deep, dark and haunting. Anderson writes with consummate skill here and looks beyond the headlines into what PTSD in a family member truly means. Appropriate for ages 14-18.
Reviewed from ARC received from Viking.