The Memory Collectors: Quietly Introspective Novel About the Magic That Lives in the Echoes of Our Past
The prologue of The Memory Collectors by Kim Neville is a kinesthetic experience, with the author weaving you into the world of Evelyn through all six senses: her languid touches, the smells in the air, the taste of dust on her lips, the gaze she casts around the barn she’s in, the robust laughter of her father … the emotions she feels trapped in every object around her.
It’s a subtle twist that doesn’t fully hit you as a reader until the following chapters, when you realize that the world that Evelyn inhabits (and soon Harriet, as we’re introduced to her) embodies a deeper dimension, one that’s intrinsically linked to the echoes of emotion left behind on the objects people cherish the most. When their paths cross through an unusual set of circumstances, they decide to put their abilities together to create something poignant: a museum of memory.
This museum is filled to the brim with sentimentality; but also, a deep well of emotion that could provide healing to those who need it most—or pain to those who do not know how to let go. As Evelyn and Harriet’s friendship grows, they’re forced to confront the ways in which they’ve allowed their abilities to imprison themselves, because if they don’t, they’ll be trapped forever, when the key to setting themselves free might just lie in each other.
The Memory Collectors is a punch in the gut, but in an oddly pleasant way. Evelyn and Harriet’s friendship is complex, but filled with a depth that nearly leapt off the page. And the ways in which their mysterious abilities have manifested in their lives is quite interesting as, well; while Evelyn’s use of it is mostly benign, Harriet’s hints at a darkness that almost feels addiction-laden.
Furthermore, the ability to feel these emotions at such a deep level serves as allegories of holding on to the past and using nostalgia as a crutch. It creates a narrative that is tinged with bittersweet yearning, and a hopefulness for the future as a means of freedom—beautifully written, with a magical realism that masterfully embodies everything that makes the genre so memorable.
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