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The Reminders by Val Emmich

The Reminders by Val Emmich

The Reminders is a sweet, charming story filled with quirky characters, told in the alternating voices of Joan and Gavin in sections named after John Lennon’s songs and interspersed with Joan’s doodled drawings from her journal. Val Emmich—who is himself an actor, singer-songwriter, and author—touches on the many ways to be remembered in this novel, for example by creating a piece of art or a song. Most of us will be remembered by our families, and the novel will remind you of the importance of family and making memories with them.

The Reminders starts with Joan’s father forgetting to pick her up after a music lesson. Any child would be anxious, but, for ten-year-old Joan Lennon Sully (named after and obsessed with John Lennon) who has a rare autobiographical memory, it is an epic event. She can remember everything that has happened to her with her Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory (HSAM). She thinks she got the special brain when her father dropped her on her head as a toddler at The Home Depot.

She can tell you how many times her mother has said, “It never fails” in the past six months: twenty-seven. She can tell what she did, what she wore, and what the weather was like on a specific day of her life. After her Grandmother Joan, whom she is named after, loses her memory to the disease of forgetting, Alzheimer’s, and can’t remember her granddaughter but can remember music lyrics, Joan comes up with a plan on how she will be remembered.

Gavin Winters, a college friend of Joan’s parents, has finally made it as an actor on a TV show produced in California. He has a modicum of fame and is recognized by his fans. But when Gavin loses Sydney, the love of his life, all he wants to do is forget because remembering is too painful. After he has a very public meltdown with a bonfire fueled by all the things that remind him of Sydney, he goes for a visit to Joan’s parents’ house in New Jersey to get over his sorrow.

Both Joan and Gavin are having trouble coping with loss and change so they team up when Joan reveals she has memories of Sydney that Gavin has never heard. Joan agrees to share them with Gavin if he promises to help with her project that will help her be remembered, a songwriting contest. Gavin listens to Joan’s memories of Sydney, whose greatest wish before he died was for them to start a family, but Gavin had been dragging his feet about the matter. Joan is also struggling to accept her parents’ decision to close down the music studio her father runs, which she loves.

As Joan and Gavin reconstruct Sydney’s last months and work on a song for the contest, Gavin reconnects with his mother and sister and becomes closer to Joan and her parents. When Joan runs away to New York City to be interviewed about her special memory on The Mindy Love Show so she can get money to fund her father’s music studio, Gavin has another very memorable, awkward, and funny meltdown on the television talk show as he tries to rescue her from being exploited.

Find out if Gavin and Joan’s collaboration will win the songwriting contest and if they find John Lennon’s “The Walrus.” The Reminders is nicely plotted with some great imagery that you will enjoy and remember.