Wednesday, September 19, 2012

"The Memory Thief"

Emily Colin holds a BA in Psychology, with a second major in Literature/Media Studies, from Duke University, and an MS in Family Studies and Human Services, with a specialization in Youth Development, from Kansas State University. She is the Associate Director of DREAMS of Wilmington, a nationally award-winning nonprofit dedicated to building creative, committed citizens by providing youth in need with high-quality, free-of-charge arts programming.

Colin applied the Page 69 Test to The Memory Thief, her debut novel, and reported the following:
Let us begin with Page 69 itself (with slight poetic license, in order to include the last paragraph):
Our bodies were only a few inches apart, and he had a good grip on me. His quiet laughter shook both of us. “Maybe you were right about the whole uncontrolled nature thing.”

“I told you so,” I said.

“They’re usually nocturnal. Maybe this guy’s lost,” he mused as we watched the copperhead reach the other side of the path and disappear into the trees. He sounded concerned for the snake’s safety, which made me smile.

“Thanks for rescuing me,” I said, imbuing my tone with enough sarcasm so that he knew I wasn’t the helpless-maiden type.

“You do need a guide. You would have stepped right on the freaking thing if I hadn’t stopped you.” I couldn’t see his face, but I would have been willing to bet he was smirking again.

I dug deep and came up with something I’d seen on the Discovery Channel during a snowed-in weekend in the Adirondacks with my parents. “They’re venomous, but their bite isn’t fatal, right? So I would’ve suffered for a while, but everything would’ve turned out okay.”

He spun me to face him like we were dancing. “You know more than you let on. Are you a closet herpetologist?”

I could give as good as I got. Tilting my head, I ran my free hand through my hair, letting it cascade over my back. “If you’re asking me if I have a nasty venereal disease, the answer is no. Not that that’s any of your business, on a first date. And speaking of which, would you mind letting go of my wrist? You’re hurting me, and it’s a little too early in our relationship for S&M.”

He dropped my wrist like it was on fire and let his hand fall from my shoulder. “That’s too bad,” he said, his voice a few notes lower and his blue eyes locked on mine. “The second part, not the first. The first part is purely good news.”
Here, Aidan and Madeleine, two of the story’s main characters, have just recently met. You get a glimpse of his affinity for nature, as well as his self-confidence—and you see Madeleine, refusing to be intimidated. There’s a tacit agreement between them when she stands up to him, a deal brokered—it’s the beginning of the imbalance of power that will ultimately characterize their relationship, in ways that will challenge him and surprise her. These are early days, still, so you get a taste of flirtatious banter, rather than the intimacy that will exist between them later—but this is the general idea.

Of course, if you just read this page, you might think that The Memory Thief is predominantly about the evolution of the relationship between these two characters … in other words, a love story. And it is that, but it’s also much more: it’s a ghost story and a mystery, a journey that tests the weight of promises and questions the true nature of memory. If you just read page 69, you’d miss all that.

You’d also miss the mountain-climbing scenes, and the avalanche that takes Aidan’s life somewhere around page 34 ... or page 25, depending on your perspective. (It’s in the book’s blurb—don’t worry, I’m not giving away any secrets here.) You wouldn’t get to meet Nicholas, haunted by visions of a woman and child he’s never laid eyes on, nor would you experience a young boy’s love for the father who refuses to leave him behind—all of which is key to the way the novel unfolds.

So. Is page 69 representative of the rest of the book? If pressed, I’d say it’s accurate, but incomplete—one perspective of a three-cornered narrative. A snapshot, really, frozen in time.
Learn more about the book and author at Emily Colin's website.

Writers Read: Emily Colin.

--Marshal Zeringue