Thursday, March 22, 2012

Posted by Carla B. at 9:45 AM
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BOOK REVIEW: The Song Remains the Same

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, although it did stumble in a few places. I give the author credit for writing such a complicated situation, especially from the first person point-of-view.

This novel is primarily told from the view of Nell Slattery, a woman who awakes from a coma with no memory of any events or people from her life. She soon learns she survived a horrible plane crash, but the only details disclosed are those told to her by the one other survivor who credits her with saving his life (who just happens to be a B-list movie star).

As she awakens and moves through her recovery, her memory does not return and she is dependent on those around her to fill in the details of her life. These are primarily her mother, husband and sister. Gradually she learns the information is true in general terms but not so much specifically. For instance, while she was married at the time of the crash her marriage was in turmoil - a fact her husband keeps from her. Eventually other, greater, revelations occur prompting Nell to regain larger chunks of memory and force her to choose how she wants to live the rest of her life: complacency or active change.

The novel is advertised as asking: "Who are we without our memories? And how much of our current self is defined by our former self?" I believe this book made a strong effort to answer these questions, although it was awkward at times and relied too much on plot twists at other times. For example, Nell was recalling her husband's infidelity and her mother's lies, trying to determine how to deal with those in absence of full memory return.  This provided an excellent chance to thoroughly explore that through the character, forcing her and the audience to look deep inside for answers. However, before she could delve into this she took off to find a house from her memories (after she just happened to find the key) where she discovers a half-brother she never knew she had (although she had vague memories of him from childhood). This new plot twist took her character and the audience off into a new direction.

I see a novel like this as a wagon wheel. Nell and her memory loss are at the center, which the various spokes representing her primary memory centers (marriage, mother/sister, children, childhood, work, etc.). It would be tempting to follow each of these spokes, for they all depend on one another to make the wheel work as it should. However, there also has to be that outer circle that keeps these spokes reigned in and balanced. In this book, it appeared that outer circle was missing. Her career had a very short spoke compared to her childhood which has a very long, crooked spoke. It is easy to see how difficult it would be to control this type of book.

I would like to have seen the author concentrate on one area more specifically. It seems the emphasis was on her childhood experience with her father and how this shaped her entire life. If so, then all other aspects should have revolved around this issue asking the questions of why. Why did she pick a husband like Peter? Why did she pick her career? Why did she not stand up to her mother? Those questions were presented, but they were lost among sideline stories such as the actor, the paparazzi, the long lost brother, etc.

I can even understand the desire to make herself over. As a middle aged housewife and mother to five children, I can only imagine waking in a hospital with no memory and a picture of myself on the cover. I know that if I saw that picture, I would want to make myself over into Angelina Jolie - the cool, gorgeous, exciting mom. Without memories or any anchors, perhaps creating a new "you" would provide the security - something to anchor yourself with during a time of change.

Scotch knows how to keep up reader suspense which is not easy. I do wish she could find a way to put in the information presented in third person without using the third person italic chapters. For most of those, I didn't really need the information. In fact, I kind of regretted reading them thinking it added more to the suspense to always be in the same situation as Nell - not knowing what was going on in someone's head and dependent only on what we saw and heard.

All in all, I read this book very quickly. I was always anxious to find out what happened next, which is the mark of good writing. I give it four stars out of five: would recommend to a friend. 

 **I received an advanced reading copy of this book from Librarything.com as part of their Early Reviewers program. Please see my  disclosure policy for further information.**

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