Title: The One Memory of Flora Banks (2017)
Author: Emily Barr
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Extent: 320 pages
Release Date: January 12, 2017
Seventeen-year-old Flora Banks has no short-term memory. Her mind resets itself several times a day, and has since the age of ten, when the tumor that was removed from Flora’s brain took with it her ability to make new memories.
That is, until she kisses Drake, her best friend’s boyfriend, the night before he leaves town. Miraculously, this one memory breaks through Flora’s fractured mind, and sticks. Flora is convinced that Drake is responsible for restoring her memory and making her whole again.
So when an encouraging email from Drake suggests she meet him on the other side of the world, Flora knows with certainty that this is the first step toward reclaiming her life.
So… I wanted to read this book because I not-so-recently watched Finding Dory, where the ever-forgetful Dory searches for her parents. The blurb for The One Memory of Flora Banks reminds me of that, except with this, we get to be inside the amnesiac’s mind instead of watching her as she embarks on a life-changing journey. It’s an interesting premise for sure.
Flora is seventeen, but an incident caused her to lose the ability to form short-term memories. Every few hours she has to relearn everything that has happened since she was ten, and she does this by reading a book her mum has written for her and the notes she has scribbled on her hands. One day she kisses Drake, her best friend’s boyfriend, and the memory stays, sending her on a trip halfway across the world.
I look at my hand: I am Flora. I must be brave. I don’t know what is happening or what anyone is saying or what I was doing a moment ago.
This is probably my first foray into the world of fictional amnesiacs, and one thing I wasn’t prepared for is how repetitive the writing is. The story is told in Flora’s first-person perspective, and because she keeps forgetting, she has to remind herself over and over again of her age, where she is, what she’s doing, and what she’s about to do. This got kind of annoying and I found myself skimming at parts, and whatever shift in repetition there was (if any) was a bit too subtle for me to notice.
Perhaps it’s this repetition too, unfortunately, that makes me unable to connect with Flora. While I honestly really felt for her at many points in the story, I had to push myself to actually care about her. The pacing is slow for most of the book, and each new revelation comes only after several chapters (it feels) of much of the same thing. It’s the nature of the book, but I think it could’ve been delivered in a better, more engaging way.
Live in the moment whenever you can. You don’t need a memory for that.
One good thing, though, is that because of the nature of the premise, Flora makes for an unreliable narrator. Are what we know as “facts” actually facts, or are they a fabricated version of the reality? Are Flora’s parents hiding something from her? Is Drake really the guy he said he is, or is there something more to him? The book is shrouded in mystery and kept me guessing practically the entire time.
I think readers who are more patient or discerning would love The One Memory of Flora Banks — Barr is not a bad writer at all, though the language here is quite simplistic, and the premise has the potential to be very emotional and impactful. For my part, though, the execution was too repetitive to be fully engaging and took away a lot of enjoyment from my reading experience. Recommended for the interesting premise, but I don’t think I’m the target audience.
* I received a copy of THE ONE MEMORY OF FLORA BANKS from Penguin. This in no way swayed my opinion of the book.