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Book Review: The Memory Thief by Emily Colin

Written by: Beth Woodward, CC2K Books Editor


Every so often, I read the description of a novel and immediately think, “I have to read this.”  That was what happened when I read the description of Emily Colin’s debut novel, The Memory Thief.  Being the instant gratification junkie that I am, I immediately downloaded it onto my Kindle.  Luckily for me, it was $9.99 well spent.

The description, courtesy of the Random House website:

Before Madeleine Kimble’s mountaineer husband, Aidan, climbs Mount McKinley’s south face, he makes her a solemn vow: I will come back to you. But late one night, Maddie gets the devastating news that Aidan has died in an avalanche, leaving her to care for their son—a small boy with a very big secret. The call comes from J.C., Aidan’s best friend and fellow climber, whose grief is seasoned with survivor’s guilt . . . and something more. J.C. has loved Maddie for years, but he never wanted his chance with her to come at so terrible a cost.

Across the country, Nicholas Sullivan wakes from a motorcycle crash with his memory wiped clean. Yet his dreams are haunted by visions of a mysterious woman and a young boy, neither of whom he has ever met. Convinced that these strangers hold the answers he seeks, Nicholas leaves everything behind to find them. What he discovers will require a leap of faith that will change all of their lives forever.

First things first: in case this isn’t obvious from the description, this is not a book you should read when you’re looking for a happy, upbeat kind of read.  At several points during the story, I found myself crying, nearly overwhelmed by Maddie and J.C.’s grief.  Colin expertly navigates the different, and often conflicting, emotions of grief: sadness, loneliness, guilt, anger, fear.  Grief is never a simple thing, and Colin does not shy away from portraying that.

The story is told from three alternating points-of-view: Maddie, Aiden, and Nicholas Sullivan.  Nicholas has just survived a motorcycle crash, but his memory is completely gone.  His only memories belong to Aiden—who semi-possesses him after his death.  (It makes more sense in context.)  Thus, what may be the weirdest love triangle in literary history begins: the grieving widow, the husband’s long-suffering best friend wracked with survivor’s guilt, and the amnesiac man possessed by the husband’s ghost.  Even with such an out-there premise, Colin does an amazing job of allowing the genuine human emotions of each of the characters to shine through.

If anything, I wish that Colin had taken a little bit more time with the development of the relationship between Maddie and J.C.  The turn of their relationship toward the romantic seemed sudden to me.  Granted, this was addressed in the book, and J.C. already had a thing for Maddie before Aiden’s death, but this was the only turn of events that I had trouble believing.

Overall, I really liked this book.  I believe fans of Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife and the Irish writer Cecelia Ahern (P.S., I Love You) will really like this.