Review of The Memory Book by Lara Avery

By: Brittany Bunzey


About a year and a half ago, I picked a book off the bookshelf of my local library without any special thought. I read the blurb, thought it sounded interesting, and added it to my growing stack of books. It quickly became a part of the family of 24 books that I read during my Christmas break, but instead of blending in with the rest, this book stood out. The Memory Book by Lara Avery captured my attention in a way I didn’t think was possible.

The book chronicles Samantha (Sammie) McCoy’s loss of memory after her diagnosis of a rare genetic disorder called Niemann-Pick Type C, similar to dementia. The book is the giant word document Sammy McCoy creates in order to write down her memories so that as she forgets, she can look back on her life and remember. Sammy calls this word document her memory book, and not only does it walk through the majority of the year, but she writes in the word document even as she is going through an episode of memory loss. Because the entire novel is written in first person and in the present tense, often addressed to her future self (“Future Sam”), the reader is effectively transplanted into her perspective. It stirs up deep emotions in each individual reader as they venture through the months chronicled throughout the novel.

I think the part that impressed me the most about the book was the way the syntax and grammar diminished as the disorder progressed, especially during her episodes. As a reader, I could see how much the disease had taken from her through how grammatically correct the sentences were, whether there was still punctuation and whether words were capitalized or not. Many would expect the book to be harder to read as these things disappeared, yet the ease of understanding what was written stayed constant. Instead, it just evoked more emotions in me as a reader.

You see, Sammy McCoy was a driven, accomplished senior in high school. She had plans to attend NYU in order to study debate. Incredibly smart and priding herself in her memory, the diagnosis swept her off her feet. At first, she lived in denial, determined that she would make it to college, determined despite the fear she worked so hard to hide. While Sammy’s loves and struggles may be specific to her, I firmly believe that every person can find a way to relate to her as she chronicles her life, walking the lines between love and loss, heartache and joy, and every range of emotion in-between.

This book may be older, published in 2016, but I’m convinced that those who have not yet read it need to. It wormed its way into my heart so that I now have an answer to the bookworm’s most dreaded question: what is my favorite book? I have yet to meet another author who can make me completely sob throughout parts of their novel without making me completely dislike their novel simultaneously. I generally avoid sad books, but this one is worth the tears. Read it and weep, my dear friends. Read it and weep.