Friday, January 17, 2014


Laurie Halse Anderson draws from her own experience as the daughter of a World War II veteran for The Impossible Knife of Memory, a highly perceptive novel about how PTSD can wreak havoc on intimate relationships.

Laurie Halse Anderson
Photo: Joyce Tenneson
As with her book Speak, Anderson bears all--feelings, physical responses to those feelings, and complete shutdowns around those feelings. Hayley Kincain has moved around so much she has rarely had to connect with anyone but her father (who ergo has also rarely had to connect with anyone but Hayley). One of the few times she did connect with someone outside the family, her father's girlfriend, Trish, it ended in disaster, with Trish abandoning Hayley and her father. So Hayley has learned to trust no one.

She knows her father loves her, and in his sober stretches, he shows her that he does. But his behavior is inconsistent and confusing, and Hayley frequently steps up to be the adult. So as her new friends in high school gradually establish themselves as trustworthy, Hayley begins to show more confidence and to trust again.

Few authors write more psychologically truthful novels than Anderson does. She is unafraid to expose the most revealing moments of intimacy--whether in friendships, parent-child relationships, or romantic relationships. She shows readers how secrets and shame can isolate one human being from another in the most crippling ways. Yet there is a great deal of repair in her books, always realistically, but enough to offer hope to her readers. Her message is that you do not have to be isolated; you can and will connect with others if you do the work to connect with them.

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