book review · shanti

The Memory of Light

I listened to the audiobook of The Memory of Light while we were away and had to endure much (like two days of) bus travel. I didn’t really know what it was about– I just got it from the library on a whim and it was SO WORTH IT. Read my review to find out more!

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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.

This book was ridiculously fabulous. There are a lot of books that talk about people who commit suicide, but most deal with them before, or maybe their loved ones after. Recovery is so hard, but I loved how the Memory of Light focused on that and friendship. The writing style was on point, I loved every one of the characters (in all their uglybeautiful complexity) and it was such a well written story of recovery.
So I have two complaints about this story. #1: The audiobook reader said Ganesh (the Hindu god) as Ganeesh, not Ganesh (with an e as in fetch). Audiobook readers should say stuff right. #2: The ending felt a little TOO dramatic.
I loved how this story was written. Vicky’s depression colours the writing perfectly. For most of the novel the way she basically doesn’t have an opinion on anything, and that made her experience feel so real. The setting was also really well written, and the flashbacks were done so well, and the conversations and… I don’t know. Everything about the writing just worked really well.
I loved the characters. The book is set in Austin and most of them are Latino/a which was so cool–but it wasn’t even a big deal. Vicky, of course, is the main character, and she’s very depressed. But she’s not just depressed-she also loves to write and swim and read poetry, and spending time in therapy and making friends helps her to remember that. Gabriel is sweet and thoughtful and self sacrificing, but deeply conflicted in ways that it’s hard to understand. EM has anger management issues and is fiercely protective. Dr. Desai loves and helps with all of herself. Mona is sassy and silly and bipolar and more vulnerable than she wants to know. Vicky’s dad is trying to replace love with achievements and pushing his daughter and stuff. Juanita, Vicky’s nanny, is leaving her home and not sure how to deal with it. The relationships between the characters were so well written, and felt so real. As Vicky reaches out in her vulnerability, she makes friends and finds unexpected hope.
I really appreciated how Vicky/Stork emphasised over and over that it wasn’t a single thing that caused her to attempt suicide– it was a combination of things, all together, and the depression that skewed her perception of the situation. As someone who has never personally experienced depression, or bipolar, or any other mental health insecurity, the descriptions and imagery really helped me to have compassion for the characters. The brain elves was such a great way to see a terrible condition–as a sticky tarlike fog that distorts the message your brain is sending. Vicky’s grappling with the stuff she hates about her life– her distant father, the high-pressure academics, the not wanting, the empty house and so on– felt so honest. I just loved how in general The Memory of Light manages to talk about privilege, poverty, depression, friendship, immigration, death and so much more, without ever being an ‘issue book’. It deals with issues sure, but ultimately it’s a compassionate story about real life.
This book needs to be read by everyone. It talks about mental health and healing and so much more than that. Go forth and read it!

So have you read The Memory of Light? Do you want to now? (you better after this glowing review lol) Tell me about the best book you’ve read featuring depression in the comments!

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2 thoughts on “The Memory of Light

  1. Ohhh, I want to read it! I DO. I’ve heard Emily @ Loony Literate talk about its gloriousness, and now you, so basically I’m doomed to need this. :’) Also I really loved the authors previous book Marcello In The Real World (SO SO GOOD BTW) ergo I probably shall read all the author’s books of ever. This is the bookworm logical way, right? *nods*
    Audiobook pronunciations can be soooo strange. I mean, obviously this was a cas of mis-pronounciation! But omg half the time they say something so differently to how I was saying it and it’s weird.😂

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    1. Yes, I read what Emily said also. I should try to read his other books. Bookworms are totally logical (READ ALL THE BOOKS EVER, it’s just deduction) I know, it makes it confusing if some books you’ve read in audio format and some you’ve read in e or hard copy.

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