Sunday 24 September 2017

A Review: Laurie Halse Anderson's The Impossible Knife of Memory

Hi, and thanks for stopping by.

Today's post is a review of Laurie Halse Anderson's The Impossible Knife of Memory. Now, I've read Laurie's Wintergirls and thought it was completely stunning - I reviewed it here. Interestingly though, I recently read Speak (for dissertation prep) and unfortunately didn't really connect with it. So, kind of mixed reviews for this author, until I got to The Impossible Knife of Memory, which was gorgeous. I got it from the library, but I will be ordering my own copy - it was that special.

"I needed to hear the world but didn't want the world to know I was listening."

To begin with, let's talk about the novel's protagonist - Hayley. I really loved her, because she was everything I look for in a female character; intelligent, funny, feisty & brave. Her settling down into regular life (high school, one home in one place, friends etc.) was really sweet to experience, because you could tell how desperate she'd been for it. Hayley constantly made me laugh - the humour, actually, ran through the entire novel and the majority of the characters, which is one of my favourite things for a novel to have.

"Killing people is easier than it should be. Staying alive is harder."

Hayley's relationship with her father was incredibly sad and intense to read about. You could actually feel her desperation to have a normal relationship with him, for him to recover, for him to find peace and happiness. You could also feel her frustration. Something incredibly well done here, which Laurie also achieved in Wintergirls, was the complex mixed/torn sympathies - because I wanted to side with Hayley 100%, but her dad's story was so incredibly heartbroken, especially when you read his own harrowing memory excerpts (which were some of the most beautifully written, emotive parts of the book).

"Dad carried a war in his skull."

Wow. Is that not the most beautifully simple, perfect quote? PTSD, as I mentioned, is not something I know huge amounts about, nor have I read about it before - but I feel hugely educated and informed having read this book about one man's experience. It showed the ways in which PTSD (like so many other mental health conditions) can completely destroy a person's life - create fear, suspicion, paranoia, anger, addiction, obsession and numbness. It was written with great sympathy and presumably either lots of research or lots of personal experience with a sufferer. Stunningly done.

"Can't escape pain, kiddo. Battle through it and you get stronger."

Truer words were never spoken. Laurie Halse Anderson is so quotable - there are so many beautiful quotes I wanted to include here and just didn't have the space for. This one is so relatable for so many people, I think, myself included. I also thought that Hayley's relationship with her dad's ex-girlfriend and her previous stepmother, Trish, was wonderfully written. It was incredibly emotive hearing about how Trish had left, how angry Hayley was with her, how abandoned she had felt. Watching them repair this relationship, slowly but surely, little by little, was so, so wonderful.

It's also worth noting here how great it was to read about so many different types of family and their issues in this book - Gracie's parents' dysfunctional relationship and her own struggle with trying to medicate her way through it, Finn's sister's deception and drug addiction, and Hayley and her father coming to terms with their grief over the death of their mother/wife so many years previous. 

"Call it hormones, an early-stage bacterial zombie infection, or a very pleasant dream I was experiencing; I didn't care. I liked That."

The romance element of this novel was also wonderfully written. It did not take up the entire forefront of the story, and it was neither cliche nor boring. Finn was a great love interest; I loved how unashamedly smart he was, how he was funny, how he clearly adored Hayley (and engaged brilliantly with her sarcasm and mood swings!) and how accepting he was of all the flaws in her life - probably because he knew how it felt to have his own. They were a great couple - utterly inevitable.

So that's it. This book was beautiful. Please read it!! You won't regret it.

"I'd treat myself to a reading marathon all weekend. All the ice-cream I could eat, all the pages I could read. Heaven."

Till next time



  1. I read this book years ago and also really liked it. Great review!

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

    1. You should try Wintergirls if you haven't already!! Thank you so much x