Title: The Memory of Light
Author: Francisco X. Stork
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
Release Date: January 26th 2016
Francisco X. Stork’s novel, The Memory of Light, captures the complications and unpredictability of dealing with mental illness. When Vicky Cruz wakes up in the hospital after a failed suicide attempt, she is sure of only one thing–sooner or later, she’s going to try again. But the more time Vicky spends with the other patients at Lakeview Hospital and with Dr. Desai, the more she begins to understand her own thoughts and actions. Vicky has been dealing with intense emotions and a growing numbness inside her that she hasn’t been able to properly label. Stuck in an environment where no one seems to acknowledge, let alone understand what she is going through, Vicky’s situation has only grown worse. At Lakeview Vicky finds common ground with those dealing with their own issues which helps her take the first step to receiving the proper help. Stork paints a very realist portrayal of Vicky’s relationship with her family. Her father and stepmother don’t quite understand how to help her and end up taking several missteps when it comes to her treatment, but in the end it is Vicky’s relationship with her sister that provides a beacon of hope when she returns to her family.
The Memory of Light takes a very honest and heartbreaking look at how different mental illnesses can distort a person’s perception of reality. As one character points out, it is easy for outsiders to look at someone who is struggling with suicide and tell them all they need is the willpower to overcome these thoughts; however, what most people don’t realize is that mental illnesses like depression or a bipolar disorder can alter the way a person views the world to the point where it can become impossible to distinguish between what’s real and what isn’t. Stork introduces several characters beside Vicky who struggle with their own disorders. Schizophrenia is a mental illness that is largely misunderstood. Stork explores the beginning stages of the illness in a sensitive way without making the character his mental illness. This is an important distinction for Vicky who is just beginning to understand what it means to have depression and that having it does not define who she is.
I spent a lot of time feeling overwhelmed with emotion while reading The Memory of Light, which speaks to Stork’s ability to create characters who feel very real and whose struggles have you feeling equally hopeless as well are hopeful.