Written by Laurie Halse Anderson, author of Fever 1793, which won a Margaret A. Edwards award, The Impossible Knife of Memory takes a turn to examine the reality of war for the children of today’s soldiers. Hayley Kincain and her father have arrived back to the town where her father grew up. The main purpose of the move was so Hayley could attend a proper school, but it isn’t that easy for her.
Hayley has to deal with her supposed ‘step-mother’, Trish. Trish isn’t the best parental figure out there. She raised Hayley while her father was serving the military but walked out on them years ago. Now she manipulates and attempts to control Hayley’s life, once again, by providing the principal with information that her father was hiding. Who does she think she is to interfere, now?
“She’s not my stepmother. (…) She’s a cheating, alcoholic a**hole who can’t open her mouth without lying. She… You can’t talk to her about me. Can I go?”
-Hayley Kincain to the principal, about Trish, page 27.
Due to her father returning from the war in Iraq, he isn’t in the most stable condition. Having no job and unable to escape from the evil spirits that haunt him, he isn’t the best father, either. He has PTSD and chooses to depend on drugs to escape from his terrible memories.
“PTSD, post traumatic stress disorder, is a mental disorder that is characterized by failure to recover after experiencing or witnessing a terrifying event” (Mayo Clinic). PTSD often affects soldiers, due to the fact that they’re in the battlefield witnessing many gruesome things that not many people can handle.
PTSD can cause anxiety and flashbacks, nightmares, and the inability to participate in something that can bring back the trauma. They may have behavior changes, emotional detachment and much more. Due to Hayley’s dad experiencing that, he isn’t the same father she had before he went to the army.
Picture this; Your father entered the army years ago and finally returned, but he’s not the same person anymore. He’s different. You could say he’s broken or being haunted, the past lurks, waiting to take its chance and pounce. What do you think would happen if that happened to your own father? Would he be able to handle it?
Hayley Kincain is honestly the most relatable character out of all the characters I’ve met when reading different books. Unlike many protagonists who have a life changing moment where they gain powers, meet their soulmate, etc, Hayley struggles to get over regular things. For example, she wants to help her father cope with PTSD and wants to think about the future. She has hope for the future.
Hayley is in conflict with her own self. If anything, we’re able to do a character analysis on Hayley Kincain, analyzing her entire persona, personality and choices. I believe that‘s the most interesting thing about it, the reason why I decided to keep reading. I recommend this book to anyone seeking to find a protagonist that doesn’t have powers or their lover to save them from their problems, to deal with the true reality of the world and it’s dark side. Find out what happens next in the library.