Author: Vanessa Carnevale
Publisher: HQ Fiction
Copy: Courtesy of the Publisher
The Memories That Make Us is the second novel by Australian author Vanessa Carnevale. 2017 saw her debut release, The Florentine Bridge, garner exuberant praise, yet I never quite got that far. If my enjoyment of her second novel is anything to go by I think I should add her debut to my wishlist.
I have to admit, I was a little sceptical going in. I received an ARC so my copy doesn’t have a synopsis on the back cover and I don’t really remember it from any time I had read it previously. We start with a car accident and total retrograde amnesia, and I started to feel quite a sense of deja vu. There are elements of this story that aren’t unique, we have the car accident that leaves a deeply in love young woman completely unable to remember the love of her life with no guarantees of whether her memory will ever return. But for the most part that’s where the similarities end. There are some other minor parallels but I think Carnevale took this story in a unique direction.
This book dragged me in and held me captive, I wiled away my day with it; around the kids and a cranky baby, and stayed up way too late to see it through to the end. I was left wondering and trying to put the pieces together because there are mysteries woven within these pages that it sometimes felt were never going to be resolved.
Gracie Ashcroft is left with retrograde amnesia after a car accident that she can’t remember, her fiancé suffered minor cuts and bruises …. and a broken heart. Gracie can’t bring herself to see him, it’s all too much for her to have to face a life she doesn’t remember. She cuts herself off from the world and cocoons herself in the apartment as she slowly tries to relearn the basic life skills she has lost.
Gracie refused to let her best friend Scarlett tell her anything about her life and on returning to her apartment she lay all of the photos on their faces. I could actually completely understand where she was coming from, her thinking being that she didn’t want to hear other people’s interpretations of her memories, she wanted to remember. If she relied on those around her to tell her about her life how could she totally trust their retellings, they couldn’t know what she was feeling and she wouldn’t know any different. I thought this was a valid argument, how often do we discover that a situation wasn’t what we thought because we only saw one part of it.
A well-timed phone call from the estate agent looking after the flower farm she inherited from her mum sees her decide to take some time out on the farm to try and rediscover herself. The farm helps her reconnect with some of her memories, though only snippets, but more importantly it allows her the opportunity to reconnect with herself, to unearth a connection with the flowers and find her purpose.
Gracie receives sporadic letters from her fiancé Blake, letters that place no pressure but allow a glimpse into the life they had without going into details; letters that Gracie isn’t sure how to answer.
In the midst of an already ultra complicated situation comes a chance meeting with the vet next door, who happens to be extremely helpful. Gracie is torn between the connection she feels with Flynn and guilt that she shouldn’t be spending time with anyone until she has sorted things out with Blake. This is a really tricky situation and though I could understand the way things were panning out I couldn’t agree that it was ok, and Gracie felt it too.
Flowers played a huge part in this narrative and it was actually quite interesting to read how Gracie, who has no memories, can name flowers and feels such an affinity for them.
I loved this book and I was drawn into the story, the characters and most definitely the flower farm. There is so much to say, but there’s also so much spoiler risk that I’m a little hesitant to say too much.
Gracie was a sympathetic lead, I can’t imagine having to start life over in my mid-20s with no memories. But it does ask a very important question… would you want to continue in a life you don’t remember, relying only on the memories of those around you or would you want to start fresh and find a new life on your own terms? What does that mean for those you leave behind?
I am actually not going to say anything else about this one, there’s a lot in my head knocking to get out but I actually think it’s best left unsaid. I would definitely recommend this story and my last word on it is that if you want an insight into all the other things I want to say about Carnevale’s characters but don’t think I should then go get yourself a copy. You will understand once you have read it for yourself I think. A great sophomore novel and well worth the read. I would actually like to go back and read it again to see what else I could pick up on the second time round.
The Memories That Make Us is book #12 for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2018.