Book Review: The Reminders by Val Emmich

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A (very) brief plot overview

Joan is a 10 year old with an incredible memory and the desire to win a songwriting competition to win money to save her dad’s recording studio. Gavin is an actor mourning the sudden death of his partner Sydney. The two become unlikely friends, with Gavin helping Joan with her song and Joan helping Gavin remember Sydney.

What’s good about it?

The short response- Everything.

With one of the central themes of this novel being relationships, you need characters that are strong and believable. ‘The Reminders’ delivers those and then some. Joan reminds me of my younger sister, strong willed, determined and someone you’d refer to as a genius. I’d find myself laughing out loud at some of her comebacks in one breath, then having tears in my eyes at her unwittingly profound thoughts the next. Her adoration of her dad chokes me up and reminds me of my relationship with my own father. I like that her relationship with both her parents is never romanticised – sometimes she clashes with her mother, sometimes she can’t understand her father’s stance on the studio – but ultimately the love and respect she feels for both of them shines through.

Gavin and Sydney’s relationship is handled with delicacy, truth and respect. I love that Gavin’s relationship is a same sex relationship and explores the idea of same sex parenting, but never once in a way that makes that idea seem ‘odd’. It was like reading about any other couple who were thinking of becoming parents. It’s embrace of LGBTQ relationships shows us how the world should be. ‘The Reminders’ deals with so many topical issues surrounding LGBTQ relationships but in a way that strips them back to the fundamental basics – two people that love each other thinking of starting the next step in their lives. You are reading about a man who has lost the love of his life, who is grieving. It doesn’t matter if he is gay, straight or bisexual. Love is love, and love is at the core of this novel. The humanity in this book is enough to make your heart swell.

I love how music and the craft of making music is referenced throughout the book, with Joan particularly focusing on her love for The Beatles. I sometimes cringe at books that have lyrics that are supposed to be laced with hidden meaning in them because I find that they can come across a little stale and desperate to seem ‘deep’ when they are presented on the page, but The Reminders never once had me cringing. The lyrics are beautiful and poignant, never once making you break from the book and think ‘well that was cheesy’.

This book had me feeling all sorts of emotions. There were highs and lows for all of the people involved, and I experienced those emotions with them gladly. It wasn’t a perfect happy ending – it’s about real life, remember – but it ended how it should. It ended with hope. It ended with me closing the book, satisfied that the characters I had become so invested in had got what they needed.

Ultimately this a story about life. It isn’t a grand narrative sweeping worldwide locations with a multitude of characters, but it doesn’t need to be. It focuses on love and loss and life after that, something we can all relate to, something we can all explore.

What’s not so good about it?

I can’t pick a fault. Not a single one, it was that good.

Rate me: 10/10

Seriously, this is one of the best books I have read in such a long time.

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