Miss Riki’s Review:
Hayley Kincain is used to a life on the road. For the past five years, she and her father, Andy, have traveled by eighteen-wheeler, constantly trying to escape the demons that haunt him since his return from Iraq. Along the way, Andy realizes that Hayley needs to attend school and prepare for college, so he brings her back to the town here he grew up and tries to settle down. Hayley looks forward to putting her own bad memories aside and start a new life, but being back home isn’t helping Andy. His terrifying memories have pushed him to drink and drugs and his unpredictable temper flares unexpectedly. Hayley is stuck between playing parent to her father and pursuing her own life with new friends and a very intriguing boyfriend with secrets of his own.
Hayley is a smart, sarcastic teen who sees life through the lens of someone deeply affected by tragedy. After being on the road with her dad, effectively homeschooled while driving cross-country, she isn’t ready for the rules of a normal high school existence. She is constantly reflecting on the pointlessness of high school drama when there is clearly more in the world to worry about, but it is all a cover for someone who deeply feels the acute loss of family as her father slips farther and farther into the recesses of his own mind. Hayley is forced to grow up at a young age and feels responsible for her father. The parenting roles are often reversed as she argues over whether or not he went to work or walked the dog, all while trying to navigate the world of high school with overbearing teachers and new friends. She’s a wonderfully complex character with an undeniable voice.
Beautifully woven with the PTSD plot of Andy is a wonderful romance between Hayley and Finn. They have such a sweet, unassuming banter that belies the affection that they feel for one another. I loved how Finn never gave up on Hayley, even when she pushed him away and the actions of her father scared him. The romance is subtle and grows from a place of mutual respect. Finn is a patient and kind boy who cares for Hayley despite her tough exterior. Their relationship is not without its trials, but in the end they come together for support and understanding. They have these wonderfully complex, deep conversations, punctuated by snarky, witty humor, and I loved them together,
The Impossible Knife of Memory does a beautiful job of describing the complex array of emotions that come with living with PTSD and caring for someone who suffers from the disorder. Not only are Andy’s demons explored with depth and emotion, but Hayley’s pain in trying to save him are also meaningful.
Days after reading this book, I’m still emotionally invested. It’s a beautiful novel that will stay with you long after you turn the last page.