Title: The Way to Remember
Author: Martha Reynolds
Genre: Literary Fiction / Women’s Fiction
Robin Fortune, the 19-year old daughter of a wealthy real-estate mogul, is kicked out of college for dealing pot. With Robin’s favorite author, Maryana Capture, visiting her hometown’s bookstore at the end of the month, she becomes convinced that if she can only get Maryana to read her novel, the one she’s written but has told no one about, her life will turn around.
Set in the mid-1970s American Bicentennial, readers are drawn into this coming-of-age story about an American teenager struggling to find her path.
This novel developed in a surprising manner. Heavy background in the beginning of the book lent a hand to a gratifying and introspective ending. Robin is a character that readers may, at first, struggle to associate with; however, as the book progresses, it becomes clear that strong focus is placed on her character growth. There were a few notable life lessons strung throughout the book, a sign of a well-developed coming-of-age novel. Among those lessons, one in particular stood out: do not look at others with envy. Instead, create happiness within your own life.
To generate relatability for readers, novels commonly feature flawed characters. However, sometimes these flaws fall short and feel fabricated or trivial, possibly to prevent readers from disliking the character. Martha Reynolds avoided this custom by creating a relatable, but truly flawed, protagonist. There are times at the beginning of the book where readers may wonder why Robin seems unable to identify her own mistakes and may even become frustrated by her lack of introspection. But these moments would just be proof of Robin’s personal growth over the course of the book. It was heartening to witness these changes in her, and it brought the novel full-circle.
Despite her growth, Robin’s emotions remained unclear at times. She seemed to handle hurtful emotions through sarcasm, but it was a guessing game to know how she truly felt about the events that happened in her life. Robin believed that if Maryana read her novel, her world would right itself again. But we as readers were not privy to her innermost motivations. The end of the book brought some of this information to light, but if we were more exposed to her feelings from the start, it may have allowed us to feel more connected to Robin earlier on.
The setting of the book was particularly appealing as the author incorporated interesting facts about life in the 70s, from fashion trends to familial expectations, and even simply the price of common goods like food. There were a few instances where Robin identified technology that she deemed impossible or futuristic, including cell phones and caller-ID. These occurrences felt a bit out of place, as they clearly exist in today’s technology-driven world. Despite this, the small town 1970s setting of the book will prove interesting to younger readers who did not grow up during this time period, and nostalgic for those who did.
With a simple and elegant writing style, Reynolds takes readers on an intimate journey of Robin’s life as a struggling teenager during the American Bicentennial. This story incorporates especially important life lessons for any young adult looking for their place in the world. Readers who start this journey of a book are likely to finish strong.
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