THE MEMORY OF US
by Camille Di Maio
Published in 2016 by Lake Union Publishing
reviewed by Kirsche Romo
In her novel The Memory of Us, Camille Di Maio carries us away in the love of a lifetime, forbidden by circumstance and overwhelming obstacles.
Julianne Westcott’s life is perfect. The daughter of an English shipping magnate and socialite mother, she has everything she needs and wants. But when she discovers a twin brother, Charles, who was institutionalized at birth – blind, deaf, and mentally challenged – she realizes her life is much more complicated than she knew.
Kyle McCarthy is a landscaper’s son, living within very modest means. Julianne first meets him during a visit with her brother. While taking a break from his landscaping duties, Kyle introduces Charles to the beauty of plants, using only touch and smell. Her heart is taken with Kyle’s loving, gentle soul. But she soon learns that his heart has already been promised to another – Kyle is studying to be a priest.
Julianne’s best friend Lucille convinces her that it would be a sin to seduce a boy bound to God. But even though she tries her best to forget him, Kyle never leaves her thoughts. By chance, they see each other numerous times over the next year, and each time, Julianne feels her attachment to him growing stronger. He is handsome, funny, and kind. All the things a priest should be. But all the things a husband should be as well.
Even if Kyle weren’t promised to the Church, his situation in life is far beneath the approval of her parents. They would never accept her marriage to a boy without station. Julianne would surely have to choose between him and the life she’s always known.
As time passes, Julianne and Kyle battle the devastation that World War II brings to England, coping with the love and loss each struggles to understand and accept.
Misery loves company, they say, and if the war had brought about misery, it had also created a company of friendships that were forged through common suffering.
It was bewildering to see the everyday aspects of life go on amidst such a ravaged landscape….Perhaps the most unnerving sights were the few children that remained in the city, prancing among this new concrete playground and making toys out of the scraps of someone’s former life.
In The Memory of Us, Di Maio surprised me with twists and turns. Just as I was expecting the plot to take one path, it would turn toward another. The first person narrative brings the reader into the brain of Julianne Westcott, following the longing of her love-torn heart as she tries to deal with her passion for a man she can’t have.
As I read, I was filled with the strong emotion of my past, as well as Julianne’s. I suffered the same struggle as a young woman – falling in love with a man whom the world didn’t see as a perfect match, but loving him none-the-less. The conflict in the novel makes the reader consider the question: How much would you give up for the love of your life? And how would you deal with the consequences?
The people I’d loved, the people I’d left, their voices came back to me in a rising tide until, overwhelmed, I crumbled down onto the floor and wept with abandon. The tears burned my skin and I made no attempt to wipe them away. I was supposed to suffer – my eternal punishment – because of what I’d done.
For a poignant look into the hearts of forbidden lovers who must question destiny to survive, The Memory of Us will wrap itself around your heart until you cry for what was never had, what was had and lost, and what was never meant to be.
K.L. Romo is a Texas author who loves to write about the human experience, bringing awareness to people living on the fringe. Her recent novel Life Before was released in 2016. She is a member of the Writers’ League of Texas and the Women’s Fiction Writers’ Association. Please visit her at www.klromo.com.