I received an advance reader’s copy (ARC) of The Memory Collectors by Kim Neville. Since this version is just a proof and not the final version, I won’t quote directly and will keep my comments general.
In The Memory Collectors, Evelyn has the ability to sense emotions on objects that have been left behind by their owners. Using this power, she collects cast-offs and trinkets to sell at a market in Vancouver’s Chinatown to make a meager living. But a chance encounter with Harriet, a woman who shares this power, changes Ev’s life. She and Harriet make a grudging team to create a museum of Harriet’s hoard of emotion-laden objects. However, Ev’s younger sister Noemi is back in town, and darker memories come with her. Now, the echoes of a tragedy seem closer to Ev than before, and they threaten her and everyone in her life.
This was an unusual book, for sure. It’s very grounded in reality, except for the strange supernatural ability Ev and Harriet have. I guess it counts as magical realism, and overall it’s pretty intriguing.
I liked Ev and Harriet, as well as Noemi and Owen. They’re a solid cast, with complex relationships and strong characterizations. The way their bonds change and develop over time is really well done.
I also liked the way Ev and Noemi’s past was slowly revealed. The gradual explanation, paired with the changes in the present, made for an intriguing read. In a way, this story taking place in the present feels haunted, and it’s kind of a cool atmosphere. That said, some of the things we learn about what happened in their childhood are hard to read—fraught with trauma and emotion and some fairly gruesome aspects, though luckily there isn’t a ton of detail of the latter.
Emotions are, of course, the core of this story. Neville cleverly expresses that while the emotions you feel are real and can affect you strongly, they are not who you are. You can sometimes be swept away by them, but if you just acknowledge them and allow them to exist, you can cope more easily. I found it to be a good theme, delivering in a creative way.
In the end, The Memory Collectors is a thoughtful book about emotion, and how your possessions can affect your state of mind, and be affected in return. It’s not a story about materialism, though objects are discussed a lot. Instead, it’s a story about facing demons, learning to use your abilities to their fullest, and not letting the past haunt you so much that you cannot move forward. All in all, it’s an enjoyable but strange book.
Overall rating: 8.5/10
The Memory Collectors will be published on March 16th, 2021!