The Impossible Knife of Memory – Laurie Halse Anderson


For the past five years, Hayley Kincain 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.


This book took a while to get going, but once it did, I couldn’t stop. Well, until my Kobo ran out of battery. It was late at night and I was a super teary mess at the climax of the book. Sigh. 

In a word, this book was GRITTY. It was definitely a tough pill to swallow. A lot of books sugarcoat PTSD and the effects of war on people. This book did not. It was a roller coaster in that way. There were some better days and some worse days. I’m not sure if the ending was perfect (I was kind of resigned to the original discovery), but it was decent.

There were some parts that really tore my heart out. Like Roy—it seemed so likely, but was tragic all the same. You can’t make us start loving characters and then let that happen! It’s cruel! But also absolutely reasonable and far more poignant.

Hayley’s life was SO HARD. There were some moments where I looked at the book, a little detached, and felt it was a little TOO dramatic. There were some moments where I was like, “Are you for real?” and felt like the book took itself too seriously. And each family had so many PROBLEMS. A stable family doesn’t always equate to zombification (although I guess that was Topher’s role). But at other times, I was swept away by the lyrical writing style and tragic undercurrents. Thank goodness for Finn to help keep Hayley (and the rest of the story) afloat. 

This felt like an important book. It was tough to read, but definitely shed a light on a completely different perspective that I’ve never really thought about before. 

Related Reading

  • Something Like Normal – Trish Doller
  • The Silver Linings Playbook – Matthew Quick
  • Second Chance Summer – Morgan Matson

Rating: 5/5

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