THE MEMORY CHILD by Steena Holmes


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Holmes (Sweet Memories, 2013) delves into the world of postpartum psychosis in this novel, which isn’t what it might first appear to be.

Diane seems like a happy new mother who dreads returning to her corporate job and wants only to dote on Grace, her daughter. But from the start, it’s clear that something is very wrong. Where is Brian, her devoted husband? Why does everyone seem to want to ignore Grace? The narrative jumps back and forth from Diane’s present-day perspective to the perspective of Brian when Diane was pregnant. Diane was reluctant to have a child due in part to the fact that, when she was a child, her own mother suffered from postpartum psychosis and killed herself and Diane’s baby brother. Though she and Brian have a good marriage, her pregnancy and a job promotion for Brian introduce strife to their harmonious union. It’s clear from Diane’s present-day narration that she is unwell and suffering from delusions, but readers will need to make it to the end of this twisted tale to find out the full extent of Diane’s delusions. Reminiscent of The Twilight Zone, this novel has a feeling that will unsettle readers from the first page. While the jumps back and forth in time help to move things along, some of the chapters from the past perspective feel repetitive as they describe the relationship between Diane and Brian as well as the friction between them. Clichés abound—“He could argue with her until he was blue in the face”—and at times, the narrative is heavy-handed and relies too much on telling rather than gently showing things, such as Diane’s remembering her father: “I never understood how he could make it into work the next day until I realized he was a functioning alcoholic.” Though the plot could perhaps have been contained within a short story, the central mystery will hold reader interest.

An intense psychological drama underpins this uneven novel.

Pub Date: March 18th, 2014
ISBN: 978-1477818428
Page count: 220pp
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Program: Kirkus Indie
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