The Memory of Things: A Novel

The Memory of Things: A Novel

by Gae Polisner


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The Memory of Things: A Novel by Gae Polisner

"[A] gripping, emotional story set in the part of history we’ll never forget." - New York Daily News

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, covered in ash, and wearing a pair of costume wings. With his mother and sister in California and unable to reach his father, a NYC 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? Gae Polisner's 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250144423
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 08/29/2017
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 63,423
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range: 12 - 18 Years

About the Author

GAE POLISNER is the award-winning author of The Summer of Letting Go (Nerdy Book Club Best YA 2014, Teen Ink Editor’s Choice Badge of Approval) and The Pull of Gravity (2012 Bank Street Best, 2012 PSLA Top Forty, Nerdy Book Club Best YA 2011). She also co-hosts Teachers Write!, a virtual writers camp for teachers and educators. She lives in Long Island, New York with her family.

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The Memory of Things 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 17 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This novel, like Gae Polisner's other novels, is well worth reading. The characters and dialogue are authentic. The plot is both realistic and, at times, surprising. It is a love story and a tribute to NYC, but it is also one of the best contemporary young adult novels I've read.
Gila Cohen-Shaw More than 1 year ago
A beautifully written story of hope. Ms. Polisner's characters feel familiar as she captures their challenges with honesty. I recommend this book to all, not just the YA community as a story to spark conversations about 9/11 , about overcoming life's challenges, , acceptance, compassion and hope.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great art often comes out of great tragedy. The monumental event now known simply as “9/11” is no exception. From Billy Collins’s poem “The Names” to Jonathan Safran Foer’s novel Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, the September 11th terrorist attacks, the most significant global event in most of our lifetimes, have served as a reminder of the resiliency of the human spirit and the unshakeable power and importance of art in our lives. Now add to the list of great art birthed from this horrible incident The Memory of Things, a young adult novel by Greenlawn-based author Gae Polisner. While the attacks on the World Trade Center certainly add to the weight of the novel, what Polisner has done is take this enormous catastrophe and brought us down to the level of a few small, individual humans and how they cope in the immediate aftermath. Kyle is a student at Stuyvesant High School who evacuates lower Manhattan across the Brooklyn Bridge. Just before stepping off the bridge, he notices a teenage girl crumpled by a pillar. Fearful that she’s thinking of jumping, he takes her arm and helps her through the crowd back to his apartment. He now has to process what he has seen and experienced while at the same time worrying about: his father, a police officer working down on The Pile; his mother and sister, stranded in Los Angeles after all flights are cancelled; his Uncle Matt, partially-paralyzed and in a wheelchair after a motorcycle accident in June; and a traumatized girl who claims to not remember her name or anything else. As Kyle narrates upon entering his apartment: “Everything feels off. Everything seems foreign and wrong.” Dare I say we all know the feeling? With nothing to do for a few days but sit around the apartment and wait, Kyle decides to show his guest some memory tricks he picked up from his uncle, who competed three times at the U.S. Memory Championships before his accident. The girl is irrationally joyful about having memorized a random list of ten objects, and Kyle tells us that “for one split second…I forget about everything else except for her and me, and this moment.” He is quickly snapped back to reality, but the moment causes him to reflect on the strange juxtaposition of so many things that they all want to remember, but also want to forget. At one point Kyle researches amnesia on his computer. He learns about a type known as “fugue” amnesia, in which “a person could wake up and suddenly not have any sense at all of who they are…” He goes on to read that entering a fugue state “is usually triggered by an event that the person’s mind is unable to cope with properly.” If that’s the cause, one might argue we’ve all been in a fugue state for fifteen years, unable to really remember what life was like before 9/11. With her powerful third novel, Polisner helps us continue to try to figure out if life “will ever be normal again.”
KittyTheVicariousBookworm More than 1 year ago
The Memory of Things is a story about coming of age and the resiliency people find when they need it. The point-of-view character, Kyle Donahue, is the 16 year old son of a NYPD detective living in Brooklyn. While there are many things that set this story apart from other coming of age tales, the one I feel is most prevalent is the time frame in which the story is told. The story opens in Manhattan on the morning of September 11, 2001 with Kyle running across the Brooklyn Bridge toward home. On his way, he spies a girl wearing angel wings and covered in ash. She doesn’t remember anything, even her name. Over the course of the next three days, Kyle saves the girl by taking her back to his family’s apartment where she meets his Uncle Matt, who lives in the guest room. All the while, Kyle tries to help her remember who she is and process the events that shook the United States that day. The first part of this book is easily one of the most difficult things I’ve ever read. Not because it was badly written because, in my opinion, it is quite the opposite… But because of the timeline itself and how it ties into my own personal experience of the events on 9/11. The story quickly and gracefully shifts into a story about coming of age, resiliency, and love, both romantic and plutonic. I thoroughly enjoyed this book from start to finish and had trouble putting it down. Furthermore, I feel like the release date, just shy of a week before the 15th anniversary of that horrifying day, could not be more perfect. I received an advance copy of this book in exchange for this honest review. For this review and more, please visit my blog at
ThoughtsFromaPage More than 1 year ago
4.5 stars The Memory of Things is a touching, poignant story about two teenagers who meet in the days following the terrorist attacks on 9/11. Kyle is at school in Manhattan when the first tower is hit. The school sends the kids home, and Kyle heads across the Brooklyn Bridge towards his home. As he is crossing the bridge, he sees a girl cowering in the corner who looks shell-shocked and is covered with soot and grime from the building attacks. In the midst of the chaos and trauma, Kyle decides to bring her home with him and then try and help her find her family. He is on his own because his father is a NYPD detective most likely helping with the disaster and his mom and sister are in California. Polisner tells the story in alternating viewpoints as Kyle attempts to help the mysterious girl who has lost her memory. As the story unfolds, she begins to remember isolated snippets but struggles with the inability to even recall her own name let alone her family. I felt the resulting story was satisfying and realistic. Polisner’s in-depth descriptions of the immediate aftermath of the attacks are incredible. As I read those sections, I decided she must have lived through the attack personally to be able to depict it as she did. There is a wonderful Author’s Note at the end where Polisner details her personal experience during 9/11 and what drove her to write this novel. Her Author’s Note really added to an already fabulous novel. The Memory of Things is a fabulous read that is both uplifting and haunting. A huge thanks to St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for the chance to read this novel in exchange for an honest review.
Kimmiepoppins More than 1 year ago
With a delicate hand, Polisner expertly navigates a subject that will always be difficult to revisit. In the back of my mind, I've long wondered when children's literature would be ready to slowly and carefully prod this experience. I've also wondered who would have the courage and heart to do it. The time has come and Polisner has beautifully risen to the occasion. In THE MEMORY OF THINGS, a new generation of readers, who will only know 9/11 from our stories, are given the opportunity to deeply and safely explore what will forever be imbedded in the hearts and hopes of the people who were witnesses and heroes.
Readingjunky More than 1 year ago
The first plane hit the World Trade Center, and many thought it was an accident. Then the second plane hit the second tower, and the world knew it was an attack. At Stuyvesant High School a relatively short distance from Ground Zero, Kyle Donohue and his classmates watch the first tower fall. The school is evacuated, and Kyle heads home to Brooklyn. As he leaves the smoke and dust behind, he stumbles across a girl covered in ash and dust and wearing a pair of costume wings. He decides to take her home. Once home safe and sound, Kyle checks on his wheelchair bound uncle. After a number of attempts, phone calls confirm that his mother and sister will be stuck in California until planes are permitted to fly again, and his detective father is hard at work in the rescue effort at the attack site. The girl seems to be suffering from amnesia and barely speaks. Kyle patiently tries to help her recall important details, and as the hours and days pass he begins to fall under her spell. Kyle bravely meets the challenges of caring for his invalid uncle, watching over the girl, and keeping tabs on the rest of his family from a distance. The impact of the events of September 11 unfold around him, erasing layer after layer of his youthful innocence. Author Gae Polisner honors the anniversary of 9/11 with her new novel THE MEMORY OF THINGS not only with a stark reminder of what happened that tragic morning, but also with an emotional and inspirational story of a teen who responded courageously and responsibly in the face of frightening circumstances. The voices of Kyle and the girl tell two very different stories about the strength of love and determination.
mountainlaurel More than 1 year ago
The best books put us in the story. This is one of those books. I quickly felt myself in the shoes of the main characters - Kyle, who is working to live up to expectations and do what he needs to do, while processing the unfathomable, and the Girl, who is shell-shocked and in need of a lifeline. The book is set against the backdrop of 9-11, but it is about people, and how they connect and get through impossible things by reaching out to one another. For those who may have experienced that day, I'll say the story added texture to my understanding of what I experienced only from a distance. Those who are young enough not to remember it are likely to walk away with a more "real life" understanding of the mindset of people in the days immediately following. This story is focused on ordinary people dealing with extraordinary circumstances, rising to the occasion while still being who they are at heart. So, so good.
wtfareyoureadingFR More than 1 year ago
Ask anyone old enough to remember 911 as more than just a tragic day in American history; the thing that they can remember most clearly about that day. And... Invariably, the majority of those asked will say that they can remember exactly where they were. But for sixteen year-old Kyle Donohue, the day the towers fell was never so much about where he was. But where and who he was in relation to those places and people who mattered to him most. And... The very special girl with beautiful wings and no memory of who or why she was. Who would serve as both his compass and his companion on his journey back to some semblance of sanity. The Memory Of Things is, on its surface, a book about 911. But one needn't look too far beyond that surface to see that the story told here is about so much more. Our protagonist, Kyle, begins this book in much the same way that we all live our lives. Unconsciously. That is not to say that we are unaware. We are to an extent. That magical realm of immediate contact that is both a universal fact of human existence, and oddly individual. That space reserved for mothers, fathers, siblings, jobs, friends, lovers, spouses, bills, pets, and all of the other important minutia which comprises our 'lives'. A space in which Kyle doesn't quite seem to fit. Until the day that the towers fall. Forever changing Kyle's world, and everything about it that he once knew to be true. Allowing his exclusionary bubble to become an endless web of connectedness. A web that though hours old, proves strong enough to anchor him to him to her. That lost girl on the bridge. And then... to everything! The importance of this book lies not in the fact that 911 acts as its backdrop. But that 911 acts as a catalyst for growth, change, acceptance, understanding, and a realized self worth for both protagonists. With Kyle realizing his place of importance to the structure of his family. While Hannah experiences the same epiphany. But on a much larger scale. As her interactions with both Kyle, and his uncle; help her to grasp the concept of her importance to both herself, and the world at large. The Memory of Things is a study of lives. How one event can alter countless existences. How many lives can forever validate one.
JimKing More than 1 year ago
A wonderful coming-of-age story that shows how hope ultimately conquers despair. Beautifully written. Buy it. You won't be able to put it down.
RAB19 More than 1 year ago
So fitting that I read this book on September 11, 15 years after the tragedy that shook our country. The words brought me back to that impossibly stunning morning. The sky was so blue and so beautiful, yet what was happening 50 miles from where I lived at the time was unthinkable. But this is more than a story about 9/11. It's a story about a boy. And a girl. It's a story about love and loss and hope. I'm giving this book to my children, one of whom was a baby on 9/11/01, and one of whom wasn't even born yet. But they need to know, beyond what they hear in a classroom, or what they read in the news. Gae Polisner does such an amazing job of telling the story of 2 young people who were still finding themselves on this uncertain, terrifying day.
LittleTerry More than 1 year ago
In the midst of the Twin Towers falling, a girl who doesn't know her own name, is rescued on the Brooklyn Bridge by a boy who cannot stop himself. In the chaos in New York City that follows the tragedy, Kyle tries make sense of his own life while untangling the mystery of a girl who isn't sure she wants to remember her own. The Memory of Things is set in the days of 9/11, but it is the story of life in the midst of war and confusion and fear. It is a story that reflects how day to day life still trickles by, around, and through us when we are past imminent danger. Polisner's characters are raw and beautiful, affected and yet trying to find a way to breathe fresh air as the ashes settle.
AnnmarieKW More than 1 year ago
I LOVE this book. The writing is gorgeous. The characters are nuanced and relatable. I was a little nervous about a "9/11" book, but the overall feel was hopeful. It's technically YA, but I would recommend it for anyone.
Florencia46 More than 1 year ago
This is an important, affecting book. It is about a tough, tough subject, but ultimately the entire book gives the reader hope. I loved it.
Smartining More than 1 year ago
If there is a secret of writing a spellbinding young adult novel, perhaps it lies in the author's ability to express vivid memories of being that age. It's not just a one-dimensional, historic kind of memory; it's an embedded set of sensory memories, and this book does a remarkable job capturing all of them. The story is a divine meditation on memory, particularly the fraught memories of love and loss and of entwined dreams and nightmares. It's not about a timeline, but every kind of sensory memory, from the muscle memory of dance and playing musical chords to the visual and auditory tricks of a memory champion and the multi-generational telling of family stories. The story gives so much food for thought. It shows memories are not stagnant--or even linear, a point beautifully revisited in an impulsive stop on the way back from Coney Island--a place itself steeped in a teenager's comforting childhood memories of a mother now stranded thousands of miles away. The "things" remembered are stepping stones to the complexities of meaningful memory as we either sift through their repetition or choose not to remember at all, scrubbing the past as with an advertised "high-tech vaccum" ("Shove it back on the shelf/before/the dots have/time/to/settle.") : the towers fall (and rise) over and over again as one flips through news channels; a character hesitates to voice "the ugly replay" of a relative's (literally) scarring experience; another character refuses to talk about the family he lost on another continent, in civilian murders numbering nearly 100,000 times the unbearable losses of 9/11. It rings so true, too, that different family members' memories of the same time and place can be magical and soothing for one and too exquisitely painful to bear for another. Some memories are "clear/and welcome,/as if on bird wings," and some are acid and ash and smoke that linger in our senses even when no one else perceives them. The book also captures the memories we unavailingly fight against even forming, shards ("Bits and pieces. Like those things that flash at the end of a movie reel....") of reality--like a glimpse of a coffin among recalled beautiful light to someone suffering amnesia. It leads us ever back to the importance of the concrete and shared commonplace, the simple beauty of not-too-sweet pancakes; a cartoon show; the clear blue sky....the halcyon days of not knowing what lies ahead--or may already have happened. If a diagnosis has not been delivered, if a state trooper has not come with hat in hand to knock on the door....then has that life-altering event really happened? So much to think about and to remember.
DmillerDM More than 1 year ago
I know this book is for young adults but I was interested and read it in one sitting. I am handing it over to my kids to read and recommend it for all readers.
book_junkee More than 1 year ago
I requested this on a whim, as it don't usually pick up things that are bound to be angsty. I liked Kyle well enough. He's a typical boy in an atypical situation and I enjoyed being in his head. The interactions with his Uncle Matt were some of my favorite scenes and I was a bit surprised at that. In the brief span of the story, Kyle shows a lot of growth. The story arc was interesting and I loved the snippets of the girl's POV that we got. I will admit that it was a bit confusing at first, but it was a really effective way to show her mindset. Overall, it wasn't at all what I expected. It was quite a unique read with a hopeful ending that was reminiscent to how the country was feeling after the horrible attacks happened. **Huge thanks to St. Martin's Griffin and NetGalley for providing the arc in exchange for an honest review**