The Reminders by Val Emmich

Remembering everything and nothing: The Reminders by Val Emmich


The Reminders is a heart-warming novel about grief, friendship, and memory, with a quirkiness that stops it being too sweet. Gavin is trying to deal with the death of his boyfriend Sydney, but when that process ends up with him setting fire to every reminder of Sydney in their home, Gavin realises he must try something else. He ends up travelling from LA to New Jersey to stay with friends and their ten-year-old daughter Joan, who has a rare condition meaning she can remember every detail from her life. With Joan, he can uncover memories of Sydney, whilst she ropes him into helping her write a song for a competition because she never wants to be forgotten.

The real heart of the novel is the way in which Gavin and Joan bond and help one another to deal with their own problems and goals. Each chapter alternates between the respective points of view, giving Joan’s distinctive powers of recall and worldview mixed with Gavin’s grief and attempts to remember what feels too painful to recall. Though it is a happy novel, Emmich shies away from making things too sickly, instead making characters face reality and learn from it. Music is constant throughout the novel and Joan’s obsession with songs and creating her song add a quirky creativity to the narrative.

The Reminders is a great light read with a sad undercurrent, a tale of trying to deal with a partner dying and of how unlikely people can help you out more than expected. It is a charming book that will probably appeal to fans of books like Lily and the Octopus.