April Read of the Month: “The Memory House,” by Rachel Hauck

Rachel Hauck

Reviewed by Honey Rand

Three years ago, while training for a half-marathon, I listened to zombie books. I know, blasphemy, right? Audio and zombies, how low could I go? Then there is the success of Fifty Shades of Gray and its sequels in print and the movies. I can’t tell you the times I’ve heard people at conferences say something along the lines of, “But the writing….” And I have to agree and add that it doesn’t appear the writing improved much through the sequels, though I confess I quit reading Fifty Shades early on.

The point is this; my zombie stories were good stories written for a specific audience, probably teenage boys. Engaging stories relieved boredom on the road, plus I learned a lot. Trust me, I am ready for the apocalypse. Same deal with the Fifty Shades series. I’m pretty sure that writer doesn’t cry as her checks are deposited. She has her audience. She shares this with Stephen King and John Grisham and numerous other popular, successful authors: no literary recognition, just cash and adoring fans.

Now there is the The Memory House. I didn’t know that this successful writer had an established audience—people who read romance and faith. Neither of these would cause me to choose a book. But this writer has craft.

The book is organized with chapters centered on the thoughts, activities, or back story of each main character. Generally, I’m not a fan of this structure, but here it worked well. The writer is a good storyteller.

The story follows two timelines, one taking place decades before, the other in the present day. The pacing of the two stories is good, moving smoothly between the two narratives. The protagonist in each story is a woman, and the writer captures the unique challenges of women in these vastly different times. Each of these stories use memory as an anchor for action or inaction. Each protagonist embraces or regains her memory in a transformational process deftly handled by the author. These sections resonate with emotional truth. This writer connects with people.

The two storylines eventually converge with revelations that, if not surprising, they are satisfying. People subscribed to shared religious beliefs will find these deeply affirming; for those of us less inclined, it’s not overmuch. Nonreligious readers may want to overlook the places where God is credited with prompting the actions or opportunities for characters. To me, when God is the driver, characters are stripped of their agency. Still the character development works. This writer balanced control of material with emotional fidelity. This writer manages time across decades as well as time “in the moment.”

The Memory House moves along. Easy to read, easy to follow the storyline. Much of this book is in scenes, which helps move action; at the same time, the controlled pacing ensures that even in the exciting moments, the reader is not left hyperventilating.

Like Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Jonathan Mayberry, Nicholas Sparks, Danielle Steel and many others who have fans waiting for the next book, fans of Rachel Hauck should be delighted while others will not be disappointed.

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