Reviewed by Chris Daniel Loza
THE ONE MEMORY OF FLORA BANKS By Emily Barr 304 pp. Philomel Books.
The One Memory of Flora Banks, Emily Barr’s first foray into the young adult genre, is a great exercise on empathy. To some, the repetitiveness of having to read everything all over again as Flora Banks recalls who she is, where she is, and who she knows can be tiresome. But those who’ve experienced temporary forgetfulness can understand Flora’s own frustration of having no memory of the most recent events in her life. In her words, you feel the ache and confusion of trying to thread her slippery past into the present.
She is seventeen years old. She had anterograde amnesia when she was ten and had surgery when she was eleven. She lives in the moment but remembers nothing of it afterwards. Everything resets for her in a few hours and she has to relearn them through the notes in her arms, her notebooks, post-its, and her cellphone, which have all become her external repository of memories. But when Drake kisses her, she remembers it long after all the other memories had perished. This becomes her catalyst to chase after Drake who had moved to a remote province in the Arctic. She literally chases the boy of her dreams to the ends of the Earth. In her mind, it is love. And this love is so strong that it has the capacity to overcome her illness. She thinks that if only she could be with Drake, then she can hold on to her memories again.
But the author refuses to reduce Flora’s story into mushy, romantic fantasy. In the third quarter of the novel, the story becomes so much more than just finding Drake. It becomes Flora’s journey to self-discovery. Here, you realize, that what you thought all along to be just another idealistic teenage romance becomes a tale of empowerment. As the twists of the story unravel, you see Flora come into her own. We are given a heartbreaking view of Flora’s world. The confidence she discovers, despite the tragic circumstances that happened, forces her to confront her life and find the true meaning of the words written in her arms: Flora, be brave. As the story draws to a close, you find that Flora has always been brave. She just forgets it. And it is one of the most illuminating things in this book: when we forget that we are brave, when we forget that we have the courage within us to confront our demons and life’s challenges.
This book starts easily enough as a light read, perfect on rainy days with a cup of coffee, but goes deeper as the pages go on. It subverts the young adult romantic genre and makes you realize that bravery cannot be found on anyone else but within you.
Get The One Memory of Flora Banks online.
Chris has written on Wattpad, yellowpads, and notepads. A few of his articles are in the dusty archives of Inquirer’s Youngblood and Philippine Star’s My Favorite Book, while one story got lost among the Kindles on Amazon. He works as a Systems Administrator by day and a recluse at night.
[Thoughts and views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Fully Booked. Then again, we love our authors anyway.]