How We Remember
by J.M. Monaco
It’s my stop on the “How We Remember” blog tour! RedDoor Publishing and J.M. Monaco have provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. If you’d like to learn more about this book, check out the other blogs on the tour, head over to the publisher’s website or take a look at the author’s blog.
When Jo returns home following her mother’s death, she is shocked to learn of an unexpected inheritance and her mother’s diary. Jo thought she could put to rest her darker past until an entry implies the messy aftermath of an uncle’s sexual advances towards her when she was fifteen. Like the diary, Jo’s memory of events is full of gaps, but one thing is certain – she will never regain what was lost. What is the full story of what happened between Jo and her uncle?
How We Remember traces the effects of alcoholism, mental illness and abuse on one Irish-Italian-American, working-class family. As Jo’s first-person narrative weaves together past and present stories, she creates a portrait of her family’s life and her own as she faces new decisions amidst the tragic consequences of mismanaged grief.
Full of moments of light and dark, Monaco’s debut novel –set during a week that anyone would dread –provides a mesmeric narrative portraying the pain of grief, the tenuous nature of memory and the earth-shattering effect that the death of the ‘glue’ of a family can cause. How We Remember is an unforgettable novel that tackles issues every reader will be able to relate to on some level. It’ll capture hearts and capture imaginations.
“How We Remember” starts strong. Jo returns home after her mother dies and while spending a few days with her father, he asks her to go through some of her mother’s things. Jo comes across a diary from the 1980s which sparks painful memories she’d long forgotten.
This story is not plot driven, there is very little plot to talk of. What’s more important here are the characters and their development. Jo, her father and her brother Dave have had a tough life, that’s for sure and it’s clear their history has shaped them in more ways than one.
The author covers a whole range of topics through their characters; health problems, sibling rivalry, childhood trauma, relocation, lust, love, infidelity, and generally looking for a sense of belonging. Jo hasn’t taken the easy route to where she is now and as she takes a look back at her life we are able to peek into the events that have made her who she is today.
Written as if it were a memoir, it’s difficult to review this book without saying too much. I did find at times that I lost interest in Jo and her family. She’s not the most likeable person in the world and she certainly makes a lot of mistakes that you might roll your eyes at. Some parts rambled on a little too much for me, but this unsettling story of a damaged family did mostly hold my attention throughout the week.
Overall rating: This is certainly not a book that will leave you with a smile on your face, you won’t put it down feeling warm and fuzzy. It’s sad and bleak – Jo’s life just seems to be one bad thing after another. That said, “How We Remember” is an interesting character study that looks at how something small can change who we are and what we become.