Goodreads: The Memory Keeper
A story about long-buried secrets, the power of memory, and the bond between a girl and her gram.
All Lulu Carter wants is to be seen. But her parents are lost in their own worlds, and Lulu has learned the hard way that having something as rare as HSAM—the ability to remember almost every single moment in her life—won’t make you popular in school.
At least Lulu has Gram, who knows the truth about Lulu’s memory and loves her all the more for it. But Gram has started becoming absentminded, and the more lost she gets, the more she depends on Lulu…until Lulu realizes her memory holds the very key to fixing Gram’s forgetfulness. Once Lulu learns that trauma can cause amnesia, all she needs to do to cure Gram is hunt down that one painful moment in Gram’s life.
With her friends Olivia and Max, Lulu digs into Gram’s mysterious past. But they soon realize some secrets should stay buried, and Lulu wonders if she ever knew Gram at all. It’s up to Lulu to uncover the truth before the only person who truly sees her slips away.
For a book that is often heartfelt and which had the potential to be quite maudlin, being about a girl and her beloved grandmother who is developing Alzheimer’s, The Memory Keeper is really a wild ride. As Lulu and her friends seek to uncover her grandmother’s mysterious past, in an effort to help her retain her own memories, the truth is often more interesting than their crazy theories.
Although Lulu has a highly superior autobiographical memory (HSAM), which allows her to remember literally anything that ever happened to her and to replay and look around memories as if she’s there again, the book is not really about her extraordinary memory but rather about how she thinks she might have been gifted such a memory in order to help her grandmother–who seems to be losing hers. That is, the book had a chance to become a bit scientific (and it does open each chapter with a fact about the brain) or to focus on the protagonist’s unique ability, but instead the focus is on the bond between Lulu and her grandmother, who essentially raised her after her mother and father spiraled into a depression when Lulu’s little sister died. She uses her memory to recall beautiful moments with her grandmother, but also as a sleuthing tool, as she recalls moments and conversations from her past to piece together her grandmother’s past–which doesn’t seem to be quite what she has always claimed it was.
I did have some guesses as to what grandmother’s past truly was, but the book continuously surprised me with new layers and revelations. I also appreciated that not everything was beautiful about the past or had a storybook resolution. The Memory Keeper is a perfect example of a middle grade book willing to deal with some gritty bits of reality.
The Memory Keeper is a unique story with a complex cast of characters that explores memory and relationships and what it means to be a family.