Saturday, 8 September 2018

Book review : How We Remember - J.M. Monaco

The opening premise for J.M. Monaco's How We Remember is a family coming together for a mother's funeral : daughter Jo, who has come back from London to her family home in the States to sort things out, her ex-druggie brother and their hard-drinking and smoking father who was often not around when they were growing up. Jo starts organising the Catholic memorial service and her father's only real input is giving her her mother's diary. Although she dips into it, this hardly features in the narrative, which surprised me. 

Jo looks back over her life and it's been a tough one : she has MS and walks with a stick, she was sexually abused by her uncle, her brother was frequently very unpleasant to her, she suffers many miscarriages, ... It all starts seeming a bit too much for one person to be believable. Jo is a survivor though, and has made herself a good life.

Her mother's will holds a surprise : while Jo and her father will get their inheritance as a lump sum, her brother (due to his mother's worries over his past demons) will get a yearly allowance, and it would be a vast understatement to say that he is not happy about it.

The book ends with one final family tragedy. This surely makes them the unluckiest family ever and this led me to switch off emotionally as it all started to seem unrealistic.

Every single male character in the book (except for Jo's husband) is thoroughly unpleasant, unreliable and selfish. The women appear to bend over backwards to accommodate them, whatever they do, and make everything right. Despite a moment of madness, Jo comes across as a bit of a saint and a martyr - the unflexing backbone of the family, holding everything together. I was annoyed by this, both on her behalf but also at her, for accepting the role, just like the other women in the family.

It has some poignant moments and is an interesting read, but I did find it a bit bleak and thought it was unlikely that one single person would have so many traumatic events in their life.

star rating : 4/5

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: RedDoor Publishing Ltd (13 Sept. 2018)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1910453625
  • ISBN-13: 978-1910453629

Disclosure : I received a review copy of the book.


  1. Oh No, that is not a book for me then. I was reading one of mislit books recently, found it in the cottage while on holiday in Cornwall, and thought the same, that the book was so stark and desolate, and so much happening to one person, that it was losing credibility.

  2. thanks for your honest review, I think I'll give this book a miss.


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