The Impossible Knife of Memory, performed by Julia Whelan and Luke Daniels, was released in 2014 by Brilliance Audio.
Hayley Kincain has an interesting take on her peers, they’re either freaks or zombies. She’s spent the majority of her teenage years travelling around the country navigating for her truck driving dad. Now they’re living in her grandmother’s old house in their home town and Hayley has started high school which proves to be a challenge for her. She copes by being aloof, hiding her pain as best she can and not letting herself get close to anyone…until she meets Finn.
Her father, Andy, has an altogether different way of coping with his problems. He’s dealing, or actually not dealing, with the aftermath of his military service in Iraq and Afghanistan with drink and drugs. It’s left to Hayley to look out for him and try to keep his unpredictable behaviour under control. They are both ravaged by Andy’s PTSD and it’s only getting worse. How much longer can Hayley manage.
Written from Hayley’s point of view, she has a pithy and unique perspective due in no small part to her unconventional upbringing. Her mother died when she was very young and after several years in her grandmother’s care she became close to her dad’s partner who eventually left. Deep down Hayley is hurting and insecure.
Her father’s flashbacks add poignancy and give an insight into the concept of PTSD. It’s so hard to grasp the enormity of the lasting effects this has. Both Hayley and her father have their demons to deal with and neither are coping well.
The situations and characters are complex and realistic, very well-developed. It’s an exceptionally moving and compelling story of a family broken beyond bearing and although it makes difficult listening at times it’s incredibly well written. There’s no miraculously happy ending here but there is hope.
The more I listen to Julia Whelan the more I like her narrations. She’s the perfect voice for Hayley and makes the strong, smart yet vulnerable character stand out.
Luke Daniels’ narration of Andy’s flashback sections, although few and far between, convey the distressing emotion and absolute horror, the feelings and experiences of war and Andy’s memories of the appalling things he’s witnessed that now torment him.
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 is Laurie Halse Anderson at her finest: compelling, surprising, and impossible to put down.