Thank you to Little, Brown and Company for providing me with an advance copy of Val Emmich’s novel, The Reminders, in exchange for an honest review.
PLOT – Joan is ten-years old and has a very rare brain condition that allows her to recall every moment of her life in sharp detail. Doctors and the media are eager to talk with her, but Joan has more pressing issues. Her grandmother has recently passed away from Alzheimers and although Joan can remember everything, she worries that other people will forget her. Joan realizes that people do not forget their favorite songs and with the help of her father, a musician who owns a recording studio in their home, she plans to enter a song writing contest.
Gavin, a friend of Joan’s parents, has just lost his husband, Sydney. Gavin is a popular actor living in Los Angeles and in the throws of grief, he sets fire to Sydney’s belongings, putting himself front and center for the paparazzi. Realizing he needs to escape his former life for awhile, he travels to New Jersey to stay with Joan’s family, sleeping in the recording studio. Joan and Gavin develop a fast friendship and strike a bargain. Gavin will help Joan with her song and she will provide the memories that she has of Sydney, from when he visited Joan’s home prior to his death. It is quickly apparent that Sydney had not been forthright with the reasons for his visits to the East Coast prior to his death. Can Joan provide enough clues to resolve the mystery of Sydney’s unusual behavior? Will the mystery lead to closure for Gavin?
LIKE– The Reminders is filled with strong, likable characters. Joan is a big personality: plucky and sweet. She also has vulnerabilities and worries that make sense for her age and condition. When she talks about her grandmother’s Alzheimers and her fears of being forgotten by others, it’s heartbreaking. The structure of the novel ping-pongs between Joan and Gavin, each giving us a first person narration in alternating chapters. Gavin and Joan’s developing friendship and the way that they help one another, is the heart of the story. It’s affecting and beautiful. The plot is strong, but character development is where Emmich really shines. Very early on in the story, I cared about Joan and Gavin, which kept me turning the pages.
Prior to The Reminders, I was unfamiliar with Emmich, but learned through his bio, that he is a successful musician. Music is an important part of The Reminders, it’s woven throughout the entire novel. I also read that Emmich has created a playlist to accompany The Reminders, which I’d highly recommend checking out.
DISLIKE– This is minor, because on a whole, I enjoyed The Reminders, but I did find that it took several chapters to hook me. I was confused when the story switched to Gavin’s perspective. It was jarring. I’d like to say that I would have stuck with the novel if it hadn’t been an ARC, but I’m not sure that I would have. That said, if you find yourself in the same situation, stick with it. By 20% in, I was hooked. It’s worth the wait.
RECOMMEND– Yes. The Reminders is funny and emotional. It might make you feel nostalgic with your own memories.