Monday, August 29, 2016

The Memory Stones

Title:  The Memory Stones
Author:  Caroline Brothers
Publication Information:  Bloomsbury USA. 2016. 480 pages.
ISBN:  1632860163 / 978-1632860163

Book Source:  I received this book as a publisher's galley through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "A young woman running through an airport, heels clattering like marbles dropped on a floor."

Favorite Quote:  "... all these things you've told me about your family, about your known and unknown parents ... it's okay ... it's just your story. it's just what happened to you ... you will still be you in the end ... Whoever your are ... Whoever you turn out to be." [Note: This quote and all those presented here are with capitalization as presented in the book.]

This book leaves quite an emotional impact!

As a parent, I cannot imagine the thought of a child that disappears, with no conclusion or resolution as to what happened. I cannot imagine being left with the imaginings of the worst that could happen and the kernel of hope that refuses to let go. No parent, no person, should ever have to suffer in that way. As the book states, "the opposite of life is not death, i realise; it is disappearance. it scorns us with its impunity. it incarcerates us in its no-man's-land of silence. it denies us the ability to act."

Now, envision the flip side. You are a child, well loved, secure, and confident of who you are and from where you come. Now,  imagine that at some point in your life, you discover that your entire life may be based on a lie. Your parents may not be who you thought. Your very definition of your identify may not be what you have always known it to. What then? Where do you go from there?

This is the story The Memory Stones takes on. The emotional impact is all the greater for the story is set in history of Buenos Aires, Argentina. The end note to the book provides the following history. "Between March 1976 and December 1983, the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo estimate that approximately 500 children were born in clandestine detention centres or taken from their families and appropriated by members of the security forces and friends of the Junta. Most were subject to false adoptions and brought up with falsified identities. at the time of the writing, the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo had recovered 119 of them, some in other latin american countries. another 380 or so remain missing to this day."

This book is the fictional story of one particular family and one child from 1976 to 1999. Osvaldo and Yolanda Ferrero are parents to two daughters - Julieta, married and living in the United States and Graciela, young, beautiful, idealistic, and in love. In Argentina, the Process of National Reorganization otherwise known as the Dirty War, terrorizes the country through its state supported terrorism by the military government. Because of his political associations, Osvaldo is forced to flee to Paris. The hope is that either he will return or Yolanda and Graciela will follow. Then, one day, Graciela disappears without a trace. So begins a parent's endless agony and unrelenting search.

The book then weaves past and present together as life moves forward despite the horrible unknown of the fate of a child and as life constantly and hopefully looks back for clues and an answer. A rare glimpse shows the terrifying reality of Graciela's fate. The book incorporates the perspective of the child, as she grows and matures only to discover the truth of her life. Primarily, the book tells the story from Osvaldo's perspective. We see his guilt in thinking that perhaps his politics lead to his daughter's disappearance. We see his anguish at only being able to watch from afar as he lives the life of a refugee while Yolanda continues on in Argentina. We see the trials of life as a refugee, when home can no longer be home and a new place to belong is yet to be found. We see his strength in living his life even as sorrow threatens to drown him. We see his constant, unfailing hope, the hope that embeds in a kernel of information. "There was a child that lived."

Caroline Brother's writing transports the reader to the places she describes, from Buenos Aires to Paris to Mexico City and to Greece. More than that, the writing transmits to the readers the emotions of the characters and puts the reader into the middle of the story. A memorable book.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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