The Impossible Knife of Memory

  • by Laurie Halse Anderson
  • Narrated by Julia Whelan, Luke Daniels
  • 9 hrs and 10 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Despite my best intentions, I was beginning to understand how my dad saw the world. The shadows haunting every living thing. The secrets inside the lies wrapped in bullshit. Even Gracie’s box of pills was beginning to make sense.
For the past five years, Hayley Kincain and her father, Andy, have been on the road, trying to outrun the memories that haunt them both. They moved back to Andy’s hometown to try a “normal” life, but the horrors he saw in the war threaten to destroy their lives. Hayley watches, helpless, as her father turns to drugs and alcohol to silence his demons. And then her own past creeps up, and everything falls apart.
How do you keep your father alive when death is stalking him? What are you supposed to do when your parent stops acting like an adult? And what happens if a sweet guy who can make you laugh barges his way into your world and for the first time, you find yourself thinking about the future?
Timely, compelling, surprising — this is Laurie Halse Anderson at her finest.

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What the Critics Say

"Julia Whelan's expert performance brings out the complexity of Hayley's character, picking up on her vulnerability and defensive toughness, mixing both with a good dose of teen attitude. Whelan's solid characterizations, varied cadence, and expressive reading strengthen the listener's connection to this emotionally intense story. Narrator Luke Daniels delivers the few sections told from Andy's point of view. His mature voice makes a believable contrast with Whelan's, and he captures Andy's tortured flashbacks and overwhelming feelings of survivor guilt. An unforgettable audiobook for older teens and adults." (AudioFile)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Powerful and Riveting

The Impossible Knife of Memory is about PTSD and how it effects the sufferer and those around them. Laurie Halse Anderson is never one to shy away from tough subject matters, and tackles PTSD with honesty and emotion. This issue is realistic and topical, and this edgy story is sure to resonate with many readers.

Hayley and her father Andy have never put down roots – Andy is a truck driver who home-schooled Hayley on the road. But now Andy thinks it’s time to settle in to his hometown so Hayley can attend high school. Andy is a war veteran with severe PTSD from his time serving in Iraq. Hayley grew up without a mom and has had to in many ways be the parent to her dad. He has daily struggles, and his flashback triggers bring on alcohol and drug abuse, and Hayley has to stay on top of him to take care of his basic needs.

Considering that Hayley has far more adult responsibilities than her peers, it’s hard for her to relate to the carefree students (she calls them zombies) at school. She doesn’t have the luxury of planning for college like the other students – who will look after her dad?

We get a glimpse of Andy’s state of mind through brief chapters in his POV. It’s clear he is in a troubled state of mind, but he chooses to self-medicate to cope rather than accept the medical and counseling help he needs.

Hayley has two non-zombie friends, her neighbor Gracie, and Finn, a nice guy at school who sees through to the real Hayley. Finn surprises Hayley by having demons of his own, and that helps to strengthen their bond.

Another complicated relationship is with Hayley’s sort-of stepmother Trish, who broke Hayley’s heart by walking out on the family. Now that she’s back in the picture, can Hayley forgive her and accept her help?

Andy and Hayley have a lot of healing to do and I wanted them to get the support they needed. Hayley is smart and funny and could have a bright future but she is in this holding pattern. She loves her dad dearly but doesn’t know how to help him at this point. Can she dare to hope for something more for her future- could she walk away?

Julia Whelan performs the nine-hour audiobook, with Luke Daniels performing Andy’s chapters. I’ve listened to Julia Whelan many times, and she’s good at inhabiting her characters. She performs Laurie Halse Andersons’ lyrical words with care and helps the story shine. And Luke Daniels illustrates Andy’s tortured state of mind with his delivery. This is a powerful story made more so by the riveting audio performance.

Laurie Halse Anderson has still got it, and her latest heavy-hitter doesn’t disappoint. Strong voice, character development, and story – you’re missing out if you’re not reading her books.
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- The Reading Date

It was a surprise - and I LOVE this author

This book was quite a surprise. It was amazing how deep things ran yet the narrator was still 17 in many ways. The reader, Julia Whelan, did a GREAT job. I had a bit of a problem with the seemingly random interruptions by Haley's father (read by Luke Daniels). Here and there they added to the overall story overall but they didn't really connect much. Even if he had told these stories to Haley, they didn't offer any real insight into Andy (they were too brief for that) and the idea that he was messed up due to a TBI AND PTSD came across quite well without his interjections. Ms Anderson is always great for a journey into a mind and she once again comes away with top marks for her work.
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- Tom

Book Details

  • Release Date: 01-07-2014
  • Publisher: Brilliance Audio