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Publisher's Summary

Despite my best intentions, I was beginning to understand how my dad saw the world. The shadows haunting every living thing. The secrets inside the lies wrapped in bullshit. Even Gracie’s box of pills was beginning to make sense.

For the past five years, Hayley Kincain and her father, Andy, have been on the road, trying to outrun the memories that haunt them both. They moved back to Andy’s hometown to try a “normal” life, but the horrors he saw in the war threaten to destroy their lives. Hayley watches, helpless, as her father turns to drugs and alcohol to silence his demons. And then her own past creeps up, and everything falls apart.

How do you keep your father alive when death is stalking him? What are you supposed to do when your parent stops acting like an adult? And what happens if a sweet guy who can make you laugh barges his way into your world and for the first time, you find yourself thinking about the future?

Timely, compelling, surprising — this is Laurie Halse Anderson at her finest.

©2014 Laurie Halse Anderson (P)2013 Brilliance Audio, all rights reserved.

Critic Reviews

"Julia Whelan's expert performance brings out the complexity of Hayley's character, picking up on her vulnerability and defensive toughness, mixing both with a good dose of teen attitude. Whelan's solid characterizations, varied cadence, and expressive reading strengthen the listener's connection to this emotionally intense story. Narrator Luke Daniels delivers the few sections told from Andy's point of view. His mature voice makes a believable contrast with Whelan's, and he captures Andy's tortured flashbacks and overwhelming feelings of survivor guilt. An unforgettable audiobook for older teens and adults." ( AudioFile)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Powerful and Riveting

The Impossible Knife of Memory is about PTSD and how it effects the sufferer and those around them. Laurie Halse Anderson is never one to shy away from tough subject matters, and tackles PTSD with honesty and emotion. This issue is realistic and topical, and this edgy story is sure to resonate with many readers.

Hayley and her father Andy have never put down roots – Andy is a truck driver who home-schooled Hayley on the road. But now Andy thinks it’s time to settle in to his hometown so Hayley can attend high school. Andy is a war veteran with severe PTSD from his time serving in Iraq. Hayley grew up without a mom and has had to in many ways be the parent to her dad. He has daily struggles, and his flashback triggers bring on alcohol and drug abuse, and Hayley has to stay on top of him to take care of his basic needs.

Considering that Hayley has far more adult responsibilities than her peers, it’s hard for her to relate to the carefree students (she calls them zombies) at school. She doesn’t have the luxury of planning for college like the other students – who will look after her dad?

We get a glimpse of Andy’s state of mind through brief chapters in his POV. It’s clear he is in a troubled state of mind, but he chooses to self-medicate to cope rather than accept the medical and counseling help he needs.

Hayley has two non-zombie friends, her neighbor Gracie, and Finn, a nice guy at school who sees through to the real Hayley. Finn surprises Hayley by having demons of his own, and that helps to strengthen their bond.

Another complicated relationship is with Hayley’s sort-of stepmother Trish, who broke Hayley’s heart by walking out on the family. Now that she’s back in the picture, can Hayley forgive her and accept her help?

Andy and Hayley have a lot of healing to do and I wanted them to get the support they needed. Hayley is smart and funny and could have a bright future but she is in this holding pattern. She loves her dad dearly but doesn’t know how to help him at this point. Can she dare to hope for something more for her future- could she walk away?

Julia Whelan performs the nine-hour audiobook, with Luke Daniels performing Andy’s chapters. I’ve listened to Julia Whelan many times, and she’s good at inhabiting her characters. She performs Laurie Halse Andersons’ lyrical words with care and helps the story shine. And Luke Daniels illustrates Andy’s tortured state of mind with his delivery. This is a powerful story made more so by the riveting audio performance.

Laurie Halse Anderson has still got it, and her latest heavy-hitter doesn’t disappoint. Strong voice, character development, and story – you’re missing out if you’re not reading her books.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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It was a surprise - and I LOVE this author

This book was quite a surprise. It was amazing how deep things ran yet the narrator was still 17 in many ways. The reader, Julia Whelan, did a GREAT job. I had a bit of a problem with the seemingly random interruptions by Haley's father (read by Luke Daniels). Here and there they added to the overall story overall but they didn't really connect much. Even if he had told these stories to Haley, they didn't offer any real insight into Andy (they were too brief for that) and the idea that he was messed up due to a TBI AND PTSD came across quite well without his interjections. Ms Anderson is always great for a journey into a mind and she once again comes away with top marks for her work.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Casey
  • Sacramento, CA, United States
  • 04-27-14

An Instant Favorite

Any additional comments?

This my first Laurie Halse Anderson book, but it won't be my last!

This book is advertised with an emphasis on its darker aspects and the fact that it's an "issue book," and indeed it was very intense and raw in parts. This was complemented with stunningly poetic writing - it hit hard.

However, I was very pleasantly surprised to find that it also had a perfect balance of lighter aspects - a smart though imperfect heroine (best kind) and a fantastic but realistic love interest/relationship. These things in combination with the moments of poetry and moments of intensity and - oh yeah - the fact that I was so ADDICTED to this book that I practically read it in one sitting - make it an instant favorite and an experience I will not forget.

I was very pleased by the narrator, her voices and intonation were subtle but spot on.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Heartbreaking and heartwarming

If you could sum up The Impossible Knife of Memory in three words, what would they be?

Beautiful, fear, love

Any additional comments?

There is no forced 'veteran story' here. It portrays adolescence, fear, loss, and the redemption of paralyzingly hope, shifted to the reality of true tragedy and progress.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • LMG
  • Sacramento, CA
  • 11-11-18

strong MC

Raised by a veteran suffering with PTSD some of the topic/perspective hit "home" with my, but the MC was unique and had an interesting perspective.

Could function as "bibliotherapy" for many teens struggling with parental Mental Health/substance abuse issues.

#FemaleProtagonist #tagsgiving #sweepstakes

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Dona
  • Hamilton, Australia
  • 07-15-18

Good YA novel

Not the most uplifting book but a good account of many of our retuned servicemen.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Well done.

I couldn't wait to get back to the story. The story was well written and the narration was perfect.

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Good Enough

This is a summer assignment, several male character's voices seemed too similar for me to easily differentiate.

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Excellent performance, story a little long

This book deals with some very difficult topics. Everyone won't be able to relate, but everyone needs to be exposed so they can try to understand.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Jenn
  • Danville VA
  • 07-19-15

Story handled difficult material well

More of a YA book for older teens and up. Kinda depressing as life often is. I liked it & recommend it. Good performance.