***As always mild spoilers may follow***
Pub date: 7 January 2014
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Romance, Contemporary, Realistic
Format: personal copy, hardcover, signed
For the past five years, Hayley Kincain and her father, Andy, have been on the road, never staying long in one place as he struggles to escape the demons that have tortured him since his return from Iraq. Now they are back in the town where he grew up so Hayley can attend school. Perhaps, for the first time, Hayley can have a normal life, put aside her own painful memories, even have a relationship with Finn, the hot guy who obviously likes her but is hiding secrets of his own.
Will being back home help Andy’s PTSD, or will his terrible memories drag him to the edge of hell, and drugs push him over? The Impossible Knife of Memory is Laurie Halse Anderson at her finest: compelling, surprising, and impossible to put down.
I was very nervous the first time I read the synopsis of The Impossible Knife of Memory. As a military spouse, I live in a precarious world. I am fiercely loyal to our troops. I will call out military BS and that is a frequent subject of conversation between my husband and I. I don’t mind when civilians call out military BS. Some families do mind. One thing that I will get up in arms about is trash talking or poorly representing our veterans. I could rage forever on that, but I won’t because I don’t need to with The Impossible Knife of Memory.
PTSD. It’s a great fear of mine and probably a fear of a lot of military families. PTSD is also known as shell shock. When my Grandaddy came home with it at the end of WWII, he was simply told to suck it up and be a man. Today, we know it’s not just something you can wish or will away. If only it were that simple.
I was cautiously optimistic with The Impossible Knife of Memory. I’ve loved everything I’ve ever read by Laurie Halse Anderson, but as a military wife and it covering a topic close to my hear, I was concerned. I hoped she wouldn’t take the situation of a PTSD family lightly. I had no need to be concerned!
Right from the beginning Laurie had me hooked. Hayley was such a relatable character for me on so many different levels and I absolutely loved it. I could relate to teenager Hayley because she reminded me so much of myself in high school. I didn’t blow off homework or land in detention, but her snarky personality is what screamed at me.
In chapter one, she’s in detention for telling off a teacher for calling her ‘missy.’ Oh, hello, freshman year biology! I had a teacher who ALWAYS called the girls ‘girly-girl.’ One day, I’d had enough and much like Hayley, gave him a piece of my mind. I told him he could call me by my name or not address me in such a sexist and demeaning way. (No, I didn’t get put in detention. Yes, he went out of his way not to address me the rest of the year unless he HAD to address me. No, he didn’t use any ‘nicknames’ for the boys. Yes, that’s what pissed me off enough to speak up.) Wow. I’m still disgusted by this memory years later. UGH.
By page three, I was reminded all over again just how much I love Laurie Halse Anderson’s writing. It really makes me sad/jealous of Mary for getting to meet her at TLA. It also makes me sad that I can’t jump into a re-read of Speak or Fever 1793 either! (Two of my favs and currently with Mary cause she got them SIGNED for me!!)
A flashback in chapter five had me in tears. Her dad reflects on a situation when he feared he wouldn’t come hme to her. Obviously,that is another big fear of mine as a military wife. (Hubby and I have been through one deployment together and that was before/right after we were married in 2010. Then, he would’ve left behind me and our dog. Now, if something happens in a future deployment, it would impact our two children as well.) Hayley’s dad remarks that he would leave her behind and that she was only a little girl. Hubby’s worst fear is leaving us behind and the kids not knowing their daddy or forgetting him while he’s deployed. It’s obvious to see how this scene ripped me to shreds.
As bad as the struggle against PTSD is, Hayley finds solace in friends. Gracie remembers when Hayley lived in town when they were little. Hayley has blocked things out and refuses to remember happy times, but she’s grateful to have Gracie . Gracie goes from having a perfect family to it being destroyed by parental issues. She doesn’t choose the best things in how to cope with the situation. She and Hayley really lean on each other a lot for support and are great friends to each other.
Hayley also finds Finn. I absolutely loved Finn. I think Laurie Halse Anderson did a fantastic job with him. He has some family issues of his own, but still manages to mellow Hayley out. I really swooned over a certain stargazing scene, because that was mine and hubby’s first not a date, but really a date,date. Then snarky comments and pseudo fights made them feel even more realistic.
While it was hard to stomach some of the flashbacks Hayley’s dad had, it was amazing to see how well Laurie Halse Anderson did with adding every layer to this broken soldier. More often than not, I wept with him near the end.
I also loved the conflict and eventual acceptance of the runoff stepmom who returns. It added a level of showing just how difficult things can be for veteran families, but also shows that there is help out there for those who need it.
I was very happy to see not a single hint of a soldier is weak if he seeks help in The Impossible Knife of Memory. I passionately believe it takes a great deal of courage to seek help. I appreciated that she also showed how difficult the VA system can be. It definitely could have lengthened the book if more than a glimpse was shown. That’s another can of worms though. I believe that will eventually be taken care of. It has to be. Our veterans DESERVE better treatment than the VA is currently doing. *huffs*
I’m still so blownaway by the magnificence of The Impossible Knife of Memory. Hayley’s voice is strong and so beautifully done. Gracie shows that even a normal teen from a normal family can have everything fall apart. Finn shows that passion and determination are a huge help in achieving your goals.
Laurie Halse Anderson does an incredible job with such an important topic. PTSD and military family suicide is something that needs more focus on it. Hubby may disagree because of all the suicide prevention death by power point briefs he has to go through after a suicide in their regiment, but I think with more help, it wouldn’t be such a pressing issue.
I’m so thankful Laurie Halse Anderson wrote The Impossible Knife of Memory. It portrays a subject close to my heart so well. The Impossible Knife of Memory is a book civilian or military can appreciate. I highly, HIGHLY recommend it. It’s definitely taken its place as my favourite 2014 publication read and will be hard to unseat.
About the author:
Laurie Halse Anderson is the New York Times-bestselling author who writes for kids of all ages. Known for tackling tough subjects with humor and sensitivity, her work has earned numerous ALA and state awards. Two of her books, Speak and Chains, were National Book Award finalists.
Mother of four and wife of one, Laurie lives in Northern New York, where she likes to watch the snow fall as she writes. You can follow her adventures on Twitter, http://twitter.com/halseanderson and on her tumblr http://lauriehalseanderson.tumblr.com/
Check out Laurie’s website, http://madwomanintheforest.com/