CM . . .
. Volume XXII Number 21. . . .February 5, 2016
The Memory Chair.
Charlottetown, PE: Acorn Press, 2015.
155 pp., trade pbk. & epub, $12.95 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-1-927502-38-9 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-927502-39-6 (epub).
Grades 6-9 / Ages 11-14.
Review by Vasso Tassiopoulos.
Those memories were still in my mind. All the memories from the other two times I had fallen asleep in Gramís chair were still clear as well. I could see Uncle Lesleyís car, Thomas as he ran by Evelyn, pulling her braid, and Ida and Luella slipping off a log into the brook. I could see it all, not as if someone had told me or as if I had seen a movie, but as if they were my own memories. Memories I could search for in my mind just as if they had actually happened to me.
The Memory Chair, a novel for middle school readers, follows the everyday life of 13-year-old Betony as she comes to appreciate visits to her great-grandmotherís old house. Throughout the novel, Betony comes to understand and feel emotionally close to her once intimidating and distant great-grandmother whom she refers to as Gram. Being the only family living close to Gram on the Kingston Peninsula in New Brunswick, Betony often visits Gram along with her parents in order to help with chores within the old house.
Betonyís interest in her great-grandmotherís life begins after she finds that she can access and share Gramís past memories when sitting and falling asleep in her brown armchair. When Betony discovers that she can access Gramís memories, her visits go from being forced to voluntary. In the armchair, Betony first receives memories from Gramís childhood, then her days of pregnancy, to her days raising her children, one of whom is Betonyís grandfather. Betony explores the memories further by requesting to use old family photos for a school project. Through the photos, Betony pieces together the memories that have come to her while also uncovering a mystery surrounding a long lost family member. Betonyís grandfather ultimately helps Betony piece the memories together so that she can come to uncover and understand long buried family secrets.
Throughout her visits, Betony also comes to understand the importance of family traditions and skills such as quilt making. She learns the intricacy and significance of making quilts and also learns to cook and appreciate homemade food with Gram. The Memory Chair can encourage middle school readers to understand and explore their own family histories. Through Gramís long buried history, readers will also come to realize how society has changed for the better. They will also realize the way in which they can learn from past generations in order to carry on family traditions while also bridging gaps between generations of family.
Vasso Tassiopoulos is a graduate of the Master of Arts program in Childrenís Literature at the University of British Columbia.
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