The Memory of Us

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Wow! What a debut novel!! Add Camille di Maio to my short list of favorite authors!!! This is type of book that I wanted to abandon daily life and just read yet at the same time I wanted to make it last because I knew I would miss it when I was done.

The story is told in flashback with brief interludes of present day - enough that early on it appears the golden couple don't stay golden. So I was happy when the past and present caught up - with 60 pages left and renewed hope I couldn't put it down until the end.

On a scale of 1 - 5:

Sex: 3

Religion: 4

Gruesome: 2

Suspense: 4

Morality: 4

Sex - allusion and imagination (p. 266 - 267)

Religion - Religion takes on a supporting-character role. Initially it seems to hold negative views of Catholicism but winds up respecting the religion. p. 102, negative views of the Catholic church. p. 125, reference to political games against Catholics (this seems to have a true historical basis) p. 144, father blames something on "those vile IRA Catholics". Julianne appreciates learning traditions (p. 179) and is sensitive to not interrupting Kyle's vocation. Julianne supported marrying in the Catholic church and didn't want Kyle to lose any more of his salvation. (bottom p. 220) Julianne respectfully wants to learn more about Catholicism. (p. 239 & 240) Julianne goes to mass to feel close to Kyle and respects the postures as well as abstaining from communion. (p. 280) Julianne questions God and sees Him as punishing. (p. 301) Chapter 27 explains liturgical seasons.

Gruesome - war scenes with serious consequences but gory details are spared

Suspense - not scary suspense but interesting suspense so that I wanted to do nothing but read and I stayed up late one night to finish. I cringed when Julianne told Miss Ellis (Bootle Home) about her relationship because I felt like that might curse it before it started.

Morality - while there is some sneaking around when it really counts the heroine does the right thing and brings a clandestine relationship out in the open

The book starts with two pages in 1961. Then it jumps back to 1937 where we stay until page 63. Suddenly page 64 starts dropping hints about what we missed between 1937 and 1961. We find out that the woman had no children (or had never breast-fed) but had been intimate with someone. We find out that she has scars on her face. We find out that she didn't need her name anymore and had become somebody else who thought she was condemned. We find out that she has memories of a father dying of old age and tuberculosis.

In Chapter 8 Roger refers to himself as an "MP". I felt like there should have been some contextual clues as to what that means.

Chapter 10 ends with a great big teaser which wonderfully builds the suspense. I appreciated that this story did more than just the forbidden love from the wrong side of the tracks. Money was a factor but also religion and vocation.

About half-way through I became hooked and wished i could read the rest at one time. The modern day scenes hint that Julianne and Kyle don't end up together. I was happy when they were together in the past but still wanted to rush ahead, even knowing how it would end up. (Or, thinking I knew.) I didn't even mind reading the hard parts when the happy couple was not together.

At the end of Chapter 16 I was proud of Julianne's actions and glad she didn't wait to speak up because I envisioned a problem forming that would drive a wedge between the central couple. i thought her fear of telling her parents about her boyfriend would be the thing that drove him away and the reason they didn't wind up together.

Chapter 17 ends with more teasing surprises - both past and current.

Knowing from the beginning that something would happen to prevent this couple from happily-ever-after I read the book with a bit of a detective view, trying to figure out what happened to drive them apart. I assumed it was for class or parents and expected to be displeased. Instead I was deeply saddened (and surprised) at the why.

Discussion Questions

At the end of Chapter 1, when Julianne learned Kyle was going to be a priest, she heard the clock "calling me home". Was that a deliberate choice of words? To what effect?

If you fell in love with Kyle in 1937, what decision would you make? Should the two discuss it together? Was it the right decision?

Julianne thought if she, "played along, authentic feelings would follow." (p. 95) Have you ever tried this strategy for falling in love? How did it work?

What significant events shaped Julianne's personality, ultimately leading her to a decision of abandonment?

How often do we make a bargain with God and renege? How often does God give us an opportunity to make things right and we don't take it?

Why didn't Kyle recognize Julianne?

Theme Ideas

Serve egg salad sandwiches in honor of Julianne. (pgs. 72, 74, 78)