Title: The Memories That Make Us
Author: Vanessa Carnevale
Published: February 19th 2018
Publisher: Harlequin Books Australia
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary
Rating: 5 stars
Gracie Ashcroft is supposed to marry Blake Beaumont in three months’ time. The trouble is, she doesn’t know who he is…
After an accident leaves Gracie with severe amnesia, she’s forced to decide: live a life that is made up of other people’s memories of who she was, or start a new life on her own. Leaving her fiancé Blake behind, she moves to the country where she takes on the task of reviving her family’s abandoned flower farm.
While attempting to restart a business with an uncertain future, she tries to come to terms with the grief of losing a mother she can’t remember and a fiancé she so badly wants to fall in love with again. What she doesn’t count on is developing a deep connection with Flynn, a local vet. Worst of all is having to confront the fact that she might lose either chance at love.
Forced to examine the person she has become, Gracie confronts the question: if you had your time over, would you live the same life twice?
In late 2016, a debut novel was released, The Florentine Bridge, by Australian author Vanessa Carnevale. Little did I know at the time that this book was going to be such a special read. The Florentine Bridge has stayed with me, despite time and many books later. Suffice to say, I have been twiddling my thumbs ever since I heard word Vanessa Carnevale was releasing her much anticipated second novel. When I finally got my hands on The Memories That Make Us, I literally jumped with joy. I loved this novel just as much as its predecessor but I adored it for its individual strengths and it has many.
The Memories That Make Us is about memory, or the process of recovering lost memories. Life changes in an instant for Gracie Ashcroft, who along with her fiancé Blake, are injured in a horrific car accident. The couple survive but Gracie is left with a case of amnesia. As a result, Gracie decides to leave the life she led before the accident behind her. She quits her job, moves to the country and sadly, ends her impending marriage to husband to be, Blake. Gracie takes her deceased mother’s flower farm off the market and decides now is exactly to right time to restore her family’s old flower farm. While bringing the farm back to life, Gracie tries to piece together the memories of her dearly loved mother and works on recovering the deep love she once felt for her fiancé Blake, who is hurting since Gracie left him behind. To complicate Gracie’s confused state of mind further, next door neighbour Flynn has begun to occupy a place in Gracie’s heart. With her heart and mind being pulled in every direction, Gracie’s pathway to recovery after the accident is fraught with frustration, confusion, heartbreak, love and hope.
Any doubt Vanessa Carnevale has about releasing her second novel should immediately be quashed. My response to this novel is one of much love and high admiration, it is just as good as Carnevale’s debut. I predict that my very positive response to The Memories That Make Us will be shared by many other readers that have the privilege to read this lovely book.
Now, the main theme of this novel is amnesia. I, like many other readers, will most probably cast their minds to some other well known books that feature this fruitful topic. Nineteen Letters by Jodi Perry has been mentioned in a few reviews of this book already. I also thought of What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty. However, I feel the calibre of The Memories That Make Us is second to none and this is a novel that easily stands on its own two feet.
Carnevale cannot be faulted on her dedication to her research. I found her passages related to her main character of Gracie’s amnesia carefully balances fact, insight and sensitivity, with the obviously confusing feelings that would come with being placed in this predicament. We get a very good feel for the high drama and emotions that would follow an amnesia case like Gracie’s. Through Carnevale’s involving writing style, I felt every frustration, every moment of clarity and the deep sense of loss that Gracie experiences along the way. Readers will find it hard pressed not to shed a tear or feel a tug at the heartstrings for Gracie. Tissues are a must with this novel!
I completely understood Gracie’s need to return home to her family’s abandoned farm after her accident. I loved this narrative choice. It enables Carnevale to shift the events of her novel from the city of Melbourne, to the tranquil countryside location of Daylesford. What a delight Daylesford is! I’m so glad Carnevale features this pretty little hideaway in her latest novel. The scenes in the book involving Gracie’s time at this small country location and the effort she puts into restoring her family’s farm was just beautiful. In simple terms, I loved the whole experience.
Flowers are the life blood of this heart rendering novel. From the pivotal first moments following Gracie’s accident, when she gives us detailed account of the flowers that decorate her hospital room, we know flowers are essential to this novel. Carnevale has a passion and an informed understanding of the properties of flowers. I really appreciated this aspect of the novel. When a book increases your understanding of a topic in a subtle way, through its engaging text, you know you are onto a winner. What I loved most about this aspect of the book was that Gracie’s story drew my attention to the healing properties of flowers themselves. There were also so many beautifully rendered passages relating to flowers and how they impact the characters in this novel, especially Gracie, my senses were in overload!
Another aspect of the novel I feel I must mention is the use of letters in the unfolding storyline. I am a big sucker for letters within texts, they get me every time! In The Memories That Make Us, communication via letters from hurting Blake, to confused Gracie, serves to heighten the mood and tension level in this novel. With the lack of letters in our current technology driven lives, it was a refreshing change to see handwritten letters play a part in mending the broken relationship between the lead characters in this book. I also loved how the letters played a vital role in recovering or reminding Gracie of some important memories from her past.
In terms of characterisation, Carnevale nails it. I loved the composition of lead Gracie. Gracie’s journey is such a momentous one that I know I will not be forgetting this character in a hurry. Supporting Gracie are a truly fabulous cast of sub characters, from loyal best friend Scarlett, to endearing Charlie and loveable Tilly, what a cast! I also must mention the male leads, who bring much light and activity to this warm tale.
Vanessa Carnevale certainly surprised me with the direction of her latest novel. I was not expecting a certain plot twist and when it hit me, I have to admit I stopped and sat astounded for a few minutes, while I gathered my thoughts on just what happened. I had absolutely no idea this excellent plot twist was going to happen and all I can say now on the matter is, wow! After this plot twist and the final conclusion of events, I have to say Carnevale’s writing has clearly has stepped up a notch in my eyes.
Returning to Vanessa Carnevale’s warm, wise and embracing writing style was an absolute comfort. I read this book in one sitting. It is the first book of 2018 that I have stayed up long past my bedtime to read, as I just could not part with this book until I knew what the final turn of events would hold for Gracie and her loved ones. Thank you from the bottom of my heart Vanessa for another utterly divine read.
The Memories That Make Us by Vanessa Carnevale was published on 19th February 2018 by Harlequin Books Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of The Memories That Make Us, Vanessa Carnevale, visit here.
*I wish to thank Harlequin Books Australia for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.
The Memories That Make Us is book #14 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge