Friday 5 June 2015

The Impossible Knife of Memory

I saw Laurie Halse Anderson speak recently at the Sydney Writers Festival. She was magnificent. I've read one of her books, Speak, probably her most famous book, and I loved it. I read it quite a few years ago, way before blogging, so I remember loving it and a bit about what it was about, but don't have any detailed memories. Naturally I bought one of her books at the SWF, her most recent book, The Impossible Kife of Memory, which Laurie signed for me, and thankfully I read it straight away. 

The Impossible Knife of Memory tells a very powerful story. Seventeen year old Hayley Kincain has just settled into a new town and new school. She and her father have spent quite a few years on the road, trying to outrun his torment from PTSD. Hayley's father is a veteran, and living with the after effects of his war experiences. Hayley can never be sure who or what she will come home to.

I opened the front door and walked onto a battlefield. 

PTSD, war experiences and substance abuse are all rather heavy topics and Laurie does not back away from the horror of any of this. Hayley's friends all have their own set of circumstances too. But it is all counterbalanced by Hayley's quirky and laugh out loud funny first person voice. Right from the start.

It started in detention. No surprise there, right?
Detention was invented by the same idiots who dreamed up the time-out corner. Does being forced to sit in time-out ever make little kids stop putting cats in the dishwasher or drawing on white walls with purple marker? Of course not. It teaches them to be sneaky and guarantees that when they get to high school they'll love detention because it's a great place to sleep. 

Hayley has seen more things than she should, and has a knowledge beyond her years. 

Maybe that was why I wanted to slap so many of the zombies; they had no idea how freaking lucky they were. Lucky and ignorant, happy little rich kids who believed in Santa Claus and the tooth fairy and thought that life was supposed to be fair. 

I always love an on form first person point of view. Laurie Halse Anderson has written a gripping, honest book that is a joy to read. These people and their lives feel so real. Flawed perhaps at times, but very real. 

On Instagram Laurie Halse Anderson wrote:

I write books. I try to make them not suck. Newest book: The Impossible Knife of Memory. It doesn't suck. 

It certainly doesn't. I can't wait to read more of her books as I know they won't suck either. My library only has four Laurie Halse Anderson books but I'm rather overjoyed to see that they are all out on loan with reserves on some. I will donate my signed copy to them so that even more people can read her.

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