The Memory of Things by Gae Polisner


“Tuesday, and those planes, they’ve broken something. Permanently. And in the process, they’ve changed everything. And everyone.”

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.

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Personal Thoughts:

Let me start first by pointing out that The Memory of Things is not a September 11 novel. Sure, it is set up around that event but is not about the four coordinated terrorist attacks on the United States. Instead, it is a story of loss, survival and hope during one of the most devastating events in history of America.

The plot, in brief, focus on Kyle who is on his way home during the September 11 attack when he came across a girl who seems poised to jump off the Brooklyn Bridge. The girl is covered in dust and ash and strangely wearing wings. At first, Kyle don’t understand what is happening but he certainly can’t leave the girl. Not when there’s a possibility that she will kill herself any moment. So instead of leaving the girl, he convinced her to go home with him. Soon he discover that the girl doesn’t remember a single thing. Not her name, or anything that happened before Kyle found her. Kyle wants to help the girl to figure out who she is and where she came from but the more he helps her the more he realized he is not ready to let her go yet.

Gae Polisner shifts narration between Kyle and the girl. While Kyle parts are written in a standard narrative, the girl point of view is presented in snippet and verses which perfectly conveys her unsorted and mostly lost thoughts.

“Change comes in two ways. The first is the blindside way that comes without warning… But other times, change comes gradually, in that sure, steady way you can sense coming a mile away. Or maybe a day away. Or, maybe, a few short hours. And, since you know it’s coming, you’re supposed to prepare. Brace yourself against the stinging blow. But just because you plant your feet wider, doesn’t mean the blow won’t take you down.”

More than finding out the girl identify or seeing her recover her memory, what really drew me in this book is Kyle. His reaction to things around him, the changes he saw in people and just how he continue to live his daily life trying to be responsible. Those little and mundane things he do during the days around the attacks are things that shows how resilient people are. That’s in-spite of all the tragedy around us we still try our best to continue to live life.

Overall, The Memory of Things is not as moving or powerful as I expect it to be but it is still a well written story of loss, survival, hope and human resilience. It’s is a reminder of what life is like to some people during the tragedy of September 11 attack.

* This review is based on an eBook I received courtesy of the publisher, St. Martin Press via NetGalley


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