Rachel Keener is the author of The Killing Tree. She lives in the Winston-Salem area of North Carolina with her husband and two sons. You can visit her Web site at www.rachelkeener.com.
The Memory Thief: A Novelby Rachel Keener
When Angel sets fire to her childhood home, it isn't the end--it's the beginning. Left with nothing but a few memories in her pocket, Angel escapes into the fields of tobacco, the only place she has ever felt safe. Hidden by/em>
"Burning down Black Snake trailer was easy. The hard thing was walking away, when what I wanted most was to watch it die... "
When Angel sets fire to her childhood home, it isn't the end--it's the beginning. Left with nothing but a few memories in her pocket, Angel escapes into the fields of tobacco, the only place she has ever felt safe. Hidden by those green-gold leaves, she sets her eyes on the mountains and believes someone waits for her there. Angel will do whatever she has to until she finds her. She longs to empty her pockets, hand over the answers to what became of her, and whisper, This is my story.
As Angel journeys toward the mountains, Hannah is struggling to tell her own story. The daughter of missionaries who follow the rules of a small and strict religious sect, modesty is prized above all else. Wearing floor length polyester skirts, and never cutting her hair, Hannah is forced to live a separate life from her peers. Until the summer her family moves to James Island, South Carolina. Slowly, Hannah begins to escape the confines of her strict upbringing, and soon makes a choice that will forever change the course of her life.
As these two women's paths connect, Hannah's past will prove to mean everything to Angel's future.
- Center Street
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Too much aimless, pointless reminiscing when all I wanted was to get to the meat of the story.
This story is a beautiful, painful tale of misguided love, strength, dependence, and courage. It is as much a cautionary tale as it is a weaving of the past and present on lives. Through Hannah, Angel, and even Mrs. Reynolds' stories, the reader is simultaneously warned against secret-keeping and lies, and encouraged to keep fighting, to keep hoping. Without hope, without the will to fight, if we subscribe to the lies we are told and allow the infection to spread and fester, our souls will hide away in self-protection. But, with love, with the truth in the open, the infection heals and the soul can emerge, fragile but ready to soar again. This story, told from several viewpoints, allows the reader to connect dots throughout the story. Many times, the reasons behind events, feelings, actions and reactions of the characters throughout this book are explained or alluded to simply by switching viewpoints to another character. From the beginning, it is apparent that, although Hannah and Angel have led extremely different lives, with totally different upbringings and families, they have something important in common: neither is allowed to become who she is really meant to become. Both are placed into an ill-fitting mold of someone else's design, and beaten, literally or figuratively, into submission into these molds. Before long, each is convinced that The Mold is The Truth. The discomfort she feels as a result of her subconscious knowledge that something in her life is not as it should be, is pushed to the back of her mind. It resurfaces, as these things always do, with destructive consequences. Hannah is the linchpin to the story - her journey is the framework; the beginning and end for each character hangs on Hannah's story like vines on lattice. The reader is introduced to a shy, sheltered girl who is teased for being different. Immediately, we identify with her, and feel the fire of righteous indignation as we follow her through decades of a ruined life. We exult in her discovery of a talent, and pray that it will be her saving grace. We cautiously hope that finding true love will be the key to unlocking the cage that holds her true self captive, and as the truth of Hannah's journey comes to light, we sit on the edge of our chairs, waiting for Hannah to see the light herself. For me, Hannah feefeels like a contemporary; she might be a friend or an acquaintance. I can see myself identifying with her on some level. Angel is the catalyst of the story. She is the spark that sets change into motion, and when her path finally crosses Hannah's, the effect is explosive. Throughout Angel's tale, we pity the girl's upbringing, cringe at her family's obvious neglect, and worry for her mental and physical safety and well-being. We want to simultaneously shake her, and take her under our wing. We want to smack her parents and call the authorities, and we hope that someone in Angel's life will realize that all is not well at home. When her path takes an unexpected turn, we begin to see how things might work out for Angel, if she would only get out of her own way. In the end, Angel brings out the mother in me - I want to protect her, heal her, show her the way to a better life. Keener has created a beautiful tapestry of lives in this story. Her use of language and accents, her descriptions of people and locations, bring the story to life and add richness to the characters. This book is a great book club book, or vacation read. Be ready with the tissues