Book Review: “The Memory of Light” by Francisco X. Stork

Vicky Cruz shouldn’t be alive.

That’s what she thinks, anyway—and why she tried to kill herself. But then she arrives at Lakeview Hospital, where she meets Mona, the live wire; Gabriel, the saint; E.M., always angry; and Dr. Desai, a quiet force. With stories and honesty, kindness and hard work, they push her to reconsider her life before Lakeview, and offer her an acceptance she’s never had.

Yet Vicky’s newfound peace is as fragile as the roses that grow around the hospital. And when a crisis forces the group to split up—sending her back to the life that drove her to suicide—Vicky must find her own courage and strength. She may not have any. She doesn’t know.

Inspired in part by the author’s own experience with depression, The Memory of Light is the rare young adult novel that focuses not on the events leading up to a suicide attempt, but the recovery from one—about living when life doesn’t seem worth it, and how we go on anyway.

My Rating: 5-Stars

A Reader’s Take:

As an adult closely associated with a teen who is struggling to find confidence and direction, I deeply appreciated the insight this story offered. Watching while Vicky went from feeling as though literally nothing in life—including her—mattered, to finding even the tiniest of reasons to stay on earth a little longer, was both heartbreaking and eye opening. And not to sound overly dramatic, but this story was a mite life altering as well. Gaining insight into how a family can make or break a person’s recovery and the importance of making sure each family member feels valued, loved, accepted, seen and heard, is something I think every parent can benefit from. The lesson that one’s best efforts can often be misguided is a difficult pill to swallow. It was hard to watch Vicky and the others battle their inner demons, and in the end I was left saddened but somehow hopeful too.

All in all, this novel was gritty without being brash or dismal. Raw, but not offensive or off-putting. A must read for anyone living with teens and/or young adults who are trying to navigate a modern culture where self-destruction is not only glamorized, but at times feels like the only choice.

A Writer’s Take:

Authors should read novels written by other authors with similar writing styles. Because I want my writing to possess a touch of literary value, I mostly read books with beautifully crafted narratives that incorporate colorful metaphors and creative imageries. This book, however, did not. It was, for lack of a better description, simply crafted with a straight to the point, no-fuss-no-muss, style of writing. Generally, I find this “simplistic” writing style flat and uninteresting. For me, the words the author chooses are almost as important as the story those words are telling. Nevertheless, there was a gentle elegance in the simplicity of this writing. Also, because I wasn’t wading through superfluous verbiage, I found I was better able to connect to the theme of the story.

Poignant plot, plus great writing, equals five-stars.

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