The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson
For the past five years, Hayley Kincaid 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 portrays a growing, complex problem particularly relevant in the United States today: the devastating ripple effects of post-traumatic stress disorder. After five years of being home-schooled on the road with her truck-driver Dad, Andy, a veteran who is tormented by memories of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Hayley Kincain finally has a home. But instead of finding a fresh new start her senior year at public school, Hayley is barely getting by. She feels lost and alone in the sea of “normal” students that she refers to as zombies, Hayley never knows if her Dad is having a good day or a bad day, unfortunately until it is too late. He has been drinking so heavily and so much that he goes into rages and then blacks out.
Hayley’s only friend, Gracie, knows Hayley is struggling, but she’s busy with her own problems —Then Hayley meets Finn, a sharp-witted boy who manages to bring out the smart, clever girl others don’t see. But Hayley doesn’t trust Finn enough to share her secrets. In fact, she doesn’t trust anyone — and that’s the problem.
Anderson’s portrayal of a family broken by war, death, divorce and addiction is very honest. “Killing people is easier than it should be but staying alive is even harder.” Andy tells a teen on Veteran’s Day. Despite the heavy subject matter, Anderson’s observations offer very realistic and emotional depth and validation to this story. At the heart of it is a tough yet fragile girl who lives in a world with a rocky foundation beneath her feet that is constantly shifting and the relentless challenge to keep balance has worn her out.
The Impossible Knife of Memory is a beautifully written book. I loved how Anderson describes memories and situations. The relationships are heartbreaking, yet there is hope, and I think that’s what makes this book so emotionally draining. There is so much love and yet there is the knowledge that it might not be enough. The supporting characters in this book are full of drama, and distraction, but ultimately help the story and Hayley to come to a place of peace.
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