All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: The Memories That Make Us by Vanessa Carnevale

on August 19, 2020

The Memories That Make Us
Vanessa Carnevale
Harper Collins AUS
2018, 400p
Read via my local library/Borrow Box

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

Dear Gracie,
Here are some things you should know:
The yellow toothbrush is mine. You sleep
with your socks on.
You and I were the closest thing to perfect I
ever knew in my life…
Love, Blake

After an accident leaves Gracie Ashcroft with severe amnesia, she finds herself struggling to recall the details of her life: the elements of her past, her personal preferences, even the identities of her loved ones.

Recollecting little more than the bond she shared with her deceased mother over their mutual love of flowers, Gracie leaves the life she’s established with Blake, the fiancé she can’t remember, and moves to the country where she attempts to revive her family’s flower farm.

What she doesn’t count on is developing a deep connection with Flynn, her neighbour. Reconciling the person she has become with the person she was, Gracie must confront the fact that she might lose both chances at love before she can find herself.

I don’t know how I haven’t read this book before now because amnesia is one of my absolute favourite tropes. I came across this scrolling through one of the apps my local library uses to lend out eBooks and I knew as soon as I read the blurb, I had to read it.

Gracie and her fiancé Blake are in a car accident that results in Gracie being in a coma. When she wakes up, she has no memory of herself and her life. She can identify flowers but she doesn’t know how to tie her own shoelaces. She can’t remember how to cook an omelet. And she has absolutely no memory of Blake and the love that they apparently shared. And she cannot face him – she wants time to reassess her life, to see if the memories come back. She flees her Melbourne apartment for her late mother’s Daylesford farm, where they once grew fields of flowers. There she meets Flynn, a handsome and helpful neighbour who suddenly proves indispensable but makes her very confused about her future.

I think this book really captures the terror and disconnect of waking up and not having any of your memories – not just about the people you know, but about yourself as well. Gracie, free from the choices of her “previous self”, the self before the accident, finds herself drinking coffee, eating eggs, much to the shock of her best friend, who insists that she doesn’t eat eggs and she only drinks herbal tea. She finds herself in an apartment that is unfamiliar, with a career that feels uninspiring. When a real estate agent calls her about her mother’s property in Daylesford, Gracie decides that she will go there and see if there are any answers to be found.

One of the few things that Gracie seems to connect with, is flowers. They are among some of the first things that she can truly remember, with bits and pieces of information coming to her. When she arrives at the property, she can identify the remains of plants, but she still has to do research and suddenly comes up with the idea to passionately resurrect the flower farm. It’s going to be a challenge, but Gracie has something to focus on and it does seem that the more time she spends there, the more keeps trickling back to her although it’s the tiniest portions of information.

There’s a large portion of this plot where it’s difficult to talk about without spoiling a rather key piece of information. The key piece of information isn’t difficult for the reader to figure out at an appropriate time (well before Gracie does, but that is intentional, I think) but it’s something where they shouldn’t be informed about prior to beginning the book. I did find it really interesting but I was also in two minds about it as well because it involved someone not following someone else’s wishes. I understand why they did it but the fact of the matter was that they still did it and that did make me feel very conflicted about that. I can only guess at how confused and betrayed Gracie must’ve felt upon the reveal, how a lot of her inner turmoil was exacerbated because of this.

I really like fresh flowers but I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know much about them. I enjoy buying the odd bunch when I’m out and about, to brighten up my home (not that that’s a thing, these days!). So I really enjoyed a lot of the information about growing them for commercial sale and Daylesford is a place that’s not too far from where I live and it’s a place I’ve visited. It’s a beautiful town (cold in the winter though!) and it was great to enjoy a book in a setting that was familiar but not necessarily one that I’ve come across too many times before, reading Australian-set fiction. I appreciated the connections Gracie forged in the town, the friendships she built as she struggled to find herself in more ways than one. I found it interesting that this was a catalyst for her changing almost every aspect of her life, rebuilding it almost by herself, as she seeks to find the person she once was. She doesn’t want people to tell her about her past likes and dislikes, her past jobs and hobbies, she wants to remember them or if she cannot do that, discover them on her own. Makes me wonder – if the same thing happened to me, what would I discover about myself? Would I reach for a book each day? Still make myself a cup of tea first thing in the morning? Choose that certain chocolate or favourite treat? Would I still dislike all seafood? Or completely free of my prejudices and established biases, would I feel differently about many things? It’s a really interesting thing to ponder, I think.

I really enjoyed this – it was a beautiful, thoughtful story and explored a lot of the reasons why I love books that feature amnesia.


Book #151 of 2020

The Memories That Make Us is book #49 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge for 2020

One response to “Review: The Memories That Make Us by Vanessa Carnevale

  1. Marg says:

    This sounds interesting!

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