Tuesday, November 10, 2015
The Memory Chair: A deep, emotional book
The Memory Chair by Susan White is short emotional novel with lots of deep characters and a little magic.
Narrated from thirteen-year-old Betony's point of view, the story begins with Betony telling the reader how going to her great-grandmother is a sort of punishment she has to endure, until one day she sits on her grandmother's large brown chair.
"It was always the smell that hit me when I walked into the back porch of Gram's house. It was an overpowering smell, musty and stale, a smell that hung heavy in the air of the small, cluttered, windowless room."
Betony gets a vivid dream of a family that resembles her own but decades before she is born. She is surprised by this dream and tries the chair during a second visit. She soon realises that these aren't dreams but are in fact memories of her great-grandmother when she was very young.
The memories unfold a strange secret of a man – or young boy – called Warren, whom nobody speaks of or seems to remember.
Betony is intrigued and keeps trying the chair to discover more about her great-grandmother and this Warren person.
"The memory of that day was Gram's. How did it become mine?"
The memories also kindle a connection between Betony and her great-grandmother, Ida, bringing them closer. Betony also discovers the art of quilting and her great-grandmother, previously portrayed as a scary old hag, gets excited about it.
"In just a week I had gone from totally dreading spending any time with Gram to the point where I eagerly rushed back into the living room so that I could hear more of what she had to tell me."
One of the things I truly liked about The Memory Chair is the character development, not only for the protagonist, Betony, but for her entire family. I like how the author made both young and old characters develop.
My only objection was that there were a lot of characters and names that often got confused. I felt like I needed a family tree.
The novel is narrated by Betony but goes back to when her great-grandmother was a child, which makes the novel span four generations – all still living. Also, Betony calls her great-grandmother "Gram" and her grandparents "Grampie" and "Grammie" so it gets a bit confusing at first or when they are all in the same room.
"Gram is my Grampie's mother, my mom's grandmother, and my great-grandmother." – I had to read this sentence a couple of times to let it sink in.
The pace is good, neither too quick nor too slow. There isn't significant "action" but the shifts and progress are nicely done.
I think it's a middle grade book but I'd definitely recommend it for all ages.
"Each memory I had seen had brought me closer to Gram, and now I cared about her in a way I had never imagined possible."
The Memory Chair brought me to tears and I liked Betony's narration. Although there isn't a lot of imagery, the book has many memorable quotes.
"The way I see it, Grampie, being a family is like sewing this quilt together…Each little piece starts out separate. You choose two pieces to put together and keep adding to make on side of the first section. Then, the second part comes together, then the third, then the fourth. Then you sew them around the middle piece and then you join them to another similar section. You start to see the connecting rings. Each little piece becomes part of the whole thing before it becomes a quilt."
Note: I received a free copy of The Memory Chair by Susan White in exchange for an honest review and as part of a blog tour with Worldwind Virtual Book Tours.
About the author:
Sue White was born in New Brunswick and moved from one New Brunswick city to another. As a teenager her family moved to the Kingston Peninsula and she only left long enough to earn her BA and BEd at St. Thomas University in Fredericton. Settling on the peninsula, she and her husband raised four children and ran a small farm while she taught elementary school. Since retiring she is grateful to now have the time to work on her writing and the freedom to regularly visit her new granddaughter in Alberta.
Christine currently lives in the Kansas City area with her husband, Austin, who has been her biggest fan and the key to her success. They have two beautiful children.
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