Rummanah Aasi
  It seems fitting to review Laurie Halse Anderson's latest novel, The Impossible Knife of Memory, in observance of Veterans Day. The book written about the difficulties some veterans face in assimilating back to civilian life after going off to war.

Description: 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?

Review: The Impossible Knife of Memory is a compelling and well timed story about a family who struggles to hold itself together in the wake of war. Hayley Kincain and her father, Andy, a decorated veteran, have returned to their small upstate New York hometown after years of so-called homeschooling and long-haul trucking. They have returned so that Hayley can have a typical senior year of high school and think about her post-high school future, but it's clear that Andy's untreated post traumatic stress disorder has made it impossible for him to make a living as a trucker.
  I really liked Haley as a character. She is forced to grow up and mature quickly into the role of a caretaker as her father's mental and physical health deteriorate. She has been a loner for so long, putting up defensive walls to prevent others from getting close to her in fears of her family's secret coming out that she is having a hard time to opening up to people who care about her including her sweet, bantering boyfriend Finn who wiggles his way into her heart. I also liked how the romance between Haley and Finn allowed Haley a chance to live a "normal teen" life and allowed some levity with the book's tough topic. Though there are many secondary characters in this book that are important, I wish they were fleshed out a bit more. For instance, we get hints that Finn has his own family problems as well as Gracie but I would have liked to know more.
 The book really shines in depicting the emotional torment of Andy as he tries to repress his agonizing memories during his four tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and his failed attempts to self medicate himself with drugs and alcohol. We get to see first hand how debilitating PSTD can be and Anderson addresses the many problems such as physical recovery, grief and survivor's guilt, chemical dependency, panic attacks and suicidal tendencies--that veterans can face when trying to reintegrate. Despite my minor issues, The Impossible Knife of Memory is an important novel that honestly and deeply explores the lingering internal scars of war.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some strong language, scenes of drinking, and drug use as a way to self medicate. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: Something Like Normal by Trish Doller, Things a Brother Knows by Dana Reinhardt
3 Responses
  1. I've seen some wonderful reviews and have no doubt that this is a briliant read, but I don't think I'm quite ready for it. These are all very difficult subjects and although I'm sure they're delt with impressively, I just can't put myself through this. I'm a coward, that's what I am.

  2. Susan Says:

    I liked this one as well and, you're right, it's a perfect read for Veteran's Day!

  3. I haven't read this one, Rummanah, but it's very appropriate for Remembrance Day. Honestly, I didn't fall in love with Speak so if I do read this one (which I plan on doing at some point because of the depiction of PTSD), I hope I enjoy it more.

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