Friday, July 29, 2016

Review of The Memory of Things, by Gae Polisner

Before I get started on my review, here is the jacket copy, from Goodreads:

The powerful story of two teenagers finding friendship, comfort, and first love in the days following 9/11 as their fractured city tries to put itself back together.

On the morning of September 11, 2001, sixteen-year-old Kyle Donohue watches the first twin tower come down from the window of Stuyvesant High School. Moments later, terrified and fleeing home to safety across the Brooklyn Bridge, he stumbles across a girl perched in the shadows. She is covered in ash and wearing a pair of costume wings. With his mother and sister in California and unable to reach his father, a New York City detective likely on his way to the disaster, Kyle makes the split-second decision to bring the girl home. What follows is their story, told in alternating points of view, as Kyle tries to unravel the mystery of the girl so he can return her to her family. But what if the girl has forgotten everything, even her own name? And what if the more Kyle gets to know her, the less he wants her to go home? The Memory of Things tells a stunning story of friendship and first love and of carrying on with our day-to-day living in the midst of world-changing tragedy and unforgettable pain—it tells a story of hope.

THE MEMORY OF THINGS, by Gae Polisner is one of the best young adult novels I have ever read. It's poignant, and powerful, and oh so painful. It's told in this brilliant kind of uneven, stumbling rhythm to the prose that would probably ruin the pacing of most stories, but works wonders for this tale, leaving you feeling like you're reading wounded, crawling haphazardly away from the wreckage of your own despair.

We all remember 9/11, but there are many points view through which that horror can be recalled, and Kyle and his silent, nameless friend's are simultaneously two of the most harrowing and deeply moving lenses through which to recall those memories. This isn't so much a story about that disaster, or about tragedy in general, as it is a story about hope, and how the power of human kindness, and the resilience of mankind's spirit allows us to survive almost anything, and then, with time, eventually heal.

It's not the most exciting or epic tale, told almost exclusively from Kyle and his friend's points of view, almost the only two characters in the novel with speaking parts, and it almost all takes place in side of Kyle's little apartment in Brooklyn, and yet the emotions and the truths and the interactions of the characters are as grand and as sweeping, and more importantly-as authentic, as any narrative.

Anyway, assuming, with the obvious caveat of the potential trigger warning for anyone who lived through it, I simply cannot recommend this book highly enough. It touched me deeply, and I believe it will move you too.

You can find out more about Gae Polisner, on: