Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Memory WallMemory Wall by Anthony Doerr

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Stunning. Six amazing short stories, each a jewel.

"Every hour, Robert thinks, all over the globe, an infinite number of memories disappear, whole glowing atlases dragged into graves. But during that same hour children are moving about, surveying territory that seems to them entirely new. They push back the darkness; they scatter memories behind them like bread crumbs. The world is remade."

The above is from "Afterworld," a story folding over itself in time as an eighty year old Jewish survivor of Nazi Hamburg sees visions of her orphanage friends who wait in a lonely netherworld for her to join them and move to a "whole city of golden tents glowing down there beneath the mist."

Stories take place in a doomed riverside village in China, the plains of Wyoming, the demilitarized zone between the Koreas, rural Lithuania, all rendered with compassion and understanding. An otherworldliness lives in the first and last story, however, and elevates them to unforgettable. In "Memory Wall," a white well-off former realtor in suburban Cape Town struggles with Alzheimer's as a dying homeless boy and his employer steal her memories and her long-time housekeeper anticipates the loss of his livelihood. The narrative trails of past and present, hope and despair cross and curve into an unsentimental yet moving resolution.

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