Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the author, H.A. Leuschel, for an honest review.
Lizzie Thomson has landed her first job as a music teacher, and after a whirlwind romance with Markus, the newlywed couple move into a beautiful new home in the outskirts of Edinburgh. Lizzie quickly befriends their neighbour Morag, an elderly, resourceful yet lonely widow, who’s own children rarely visit her. Everything seems perfect in Lizzie’s life until she finds out she is pregnant and her relationship with both Morag and Markus change beyond her control.
Can Lizzie really trust Morag and why is Markus keeping secrets from her?
In ‘The Memories We Bury’ the author explores the dangerous bonds we can create with strangers and how past memories can cast long shadows over the present.
“Why is it I seem to remember events that hurt me better than experiences id rather hold on to because they make me happy?”
The Memories We Bury is the first full novel by Helene Leuschel, but definitely not her first dive into psychological fiction. After reading her last collection of short stories, Manipulated Lives, I became obsessed with her ability to showcase the countless ways of manipulation that a person can find themselves victim to, or wield. Whether the manipulation is in a form of an abusive partner, a con man/woman, or a friend or family member being able to coerce their loved one into doing what they want, this author delivers a realistic and frighteningly detailed portrayal of such scenarios.
In this story, a young mother struggles to navigate parenthood with a reluctant and mostly absent husband, but finds friendship and guidance in her elderly neighbor. Together the two form a fast bond where the young mother, Lizzie, is able to find a mother figure in her neighbor, and where the neighbor, Morag, is able to feel of sense of purpose as a stand-in mother and grandmother. But as the two become closer and their lives begin to intertwine, the complexities surrounding motherhood and their pasts lead the women to a place that will be almost impossible to come back from.
What I love about H.A. Leuschel is her dedication to the development of her characters. They have distinct personalities that gives each of them a soft uniqueness, but are given a detailed background of family dynamics, trauma and experiences that adds to the overall framework of who they become. None of them are perfect, and they are all surely flawed in many ways, which makes them feel as genuine and raw as both you and I.
Lizzie is one of two women that this story focuses on. She is a young woman in her late 20’s who has just married a man who is walking confidence and charisma. Lizzie however, is an introvert and prefers to lose herself in the keys of a piano. They are a mismatched pair, but upon being introduced to them they seem to compliment each other well and bring a balance to their relationship. But as the story goes on, we quickly learn that her husband, Markus, is not Mr. Perfect. He is the typical arrogant and archaic type of salesman who talks down to his wife through quips and jokes, expects her to sit at home and run their household, and who always has a phone glued to his ear. Upon marrying, they discuss putting children off until they have had time to enjoy each other. But then, Lizzie gets pregnant.
Markus is reluctant to become a father and not ecstatic about the news, which leaves Lizzie to go through her pregnancy mostly alone. But with Markus working long hours or away on business trips, Lizzie begins to strike up a quick friendship with her sweet elderly neighbor, Morag.
“‘There are no half measures with you, Morag’ I heard Pete’s voice in my head. ‘You switch from confidence to paranoia in a heartbeat.’”
Morag is a fun lady. Very opinionated, very knowledgeable, and VERY matter-of-fact. She is always on the go and more than happy to spend time with her neighbor, as her children very rarely visit and her husband had passed. Her career was working as a nurse with premature babies, where she developed her love for children and for helping new mothers and fathers experience the joys of new life. It is through her hospital work that she eventually met her late husband Peter, and started a family of her own. But though Morag seems to be a very caring and heartfelt woman, hints of her tumultuous relationships with her children are hinted throughout the story.
It is after the birth of Lizzie’s son that things start to develop and change between Lizzie, Morag and Markus. As the story unfolds and describes the days and months after the birth of Lizzie’s son Jamie, the reader is also given insight into the childhood of Lizzie growing up with a cold and rarely comforting mother. It is there that Lizzie wishes for a mother figure, someone who will love her unconditionally and be there as a support system for her. But her need for someone to fill this role is ultimately where things begin to get rocky between Lizzie and Morag.
There is a lot of character and background building that takes up most of this book. The first half really dives into who Lizzie and Morag are. Their wants, desires, pasts, fears and qualities. It was a little slow for my liking in this first half, but everything blended together nicely to set up the REAL plot of this story. Once things really started to roll about halfway through, I was hooked. My mind was reeling about what might happen, where I thought the story would go or how the characters might end up. It was the perfect mix of suspenseful twists that didn’t feel fabricated or overly fictitious. The turmoil felt authentic, the forms of manipulation were realistic, and the outcome was shocking.
Overall, The Memories We Bury was another enjoyable story of dark human behavior. I am so excited to see what else this author comes up with, and what other types of personalities will grace the pages of her next stories.