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A Red Heart of Memories (1999)

by Nina Kiriki Hoffman

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306965,897 (3.99)48
From Bram Stoker Award winner and Nebula and World Fantasy Awards finalist Nina Kiriki Hoffman comes a novel of two young people who live outside ordinary reality -- and who are about to discover life's extraordinary possibilities...
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» See also 48 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
This is a follow-up to A Stir of Bones - about 10 years later. Something happened soon after the last book and a new character, Matt Black, meets Edmund and leads him to find old friends and confront their past. There's a lot of wish fulfillment magic/fantasy - comforting, but also cloying. ( )
  cindywho | May 27, 2019 |
What I remember from reading this book ~20 years ago: Matt's ability to talk to inanimate objects and spin wild gold, and her yearning for Edmund to be her boyfriend. I'm pretty sure I read this entire novel in one day back then, because I remember feeling completely entranced by the story. What I don't remember: all the dark stuff - and boy is there a lot of it in this book!

With 20 years' perspective, I can say that this book doesn't quite hold up as well as I remember, but it's still a damn good story. Matilda "Matt" Black is our protagonist, a wandering woman with a long, dark past who has acquired the ability to speak with inanimate, man-made objects and to see into people's dreams/thoughtscapes. She meets Edmund Reynolds on Christmas Eve when he emerges from a cemetery wall. Edmund is a wandering witch, a man who never ages and who has followed Spirit for fifteen years, looking for people and things to help and helping them. Meeting Matt makes him take charge of his journey, however, and he decides that he wants to go back and see his old friends, whom he hasn't seen since he left his hometown at eighteen.

They return to visit Nathan, the teenage ghost, and House on Lee Street. We learn that Nathan cursed Edmund one year with the witchcraft he was so interested in, and that it took him a long time to master it. He's pretty much arrested in his appearance when he gained his powers, even though he's in his mid-thirties now. Matt uses her dream-eyes to see that Edmund's inner self has split into three parts, two of which are missing: his child self, before he had powers, and a red boy who scorched the earth - and Edmund's memories - in his wake. It's pretty easy to bring the child back and reunite him with the adult Edmund, but finding out the mystery behind the red boy takes them on a quest, one neither Edmund nor Matt are so sure they want to face.

Edmund's sister Abby is the originator of the magic gold, a heretofore unrealized gift from Edmund when he left after the red boy's first appearance. Matt helps Abby tame the gold (the physical realization of her creativity) and in return, some of the grateful gold breaks away and carries on with Matt. Edmund knows that whatever happened with the red boy period of his life involved his friend Susan, so they set off to find her.

Having a beautiful, perfectly formed woman in their midst makes Matt face some of her own past again. It's extremely dark and sad. She's faced her past and wants to help Edmund and Susan face theirs, but she knows that it will bring a lot of pain and suffering, even with the comforting presence of the magic gold and Edmund's white witch magic.

Matt and Edmund both decide that they want to have a romantic relationship with each other, and Susan's and Nathan's feelings are rekindled as well, which makes my inner romantic very happy ♥ I'm looking forward to re-reading Past the Size of Dreaming, of which I have no memory though I know I've read it before, because it reunites the whole gang: Edmund, Nathan, Susan, Julio, Deirdre, and House - and Matt's along for the ride this time, too. ( )
  eurohackie | May 4, 2019 |
*I strongly recommend getting a copy of "Past the Size of Dreaming" to read immediately following this book*

*Review contains spoilers*

In this book (and the sequel), we are shown people who are outside the mainstream, who live differently, and the differing levels to which they blend in. Matt has been homeless for years, but does okay with finding what is required, by listening to the voices of manufactured objects.

Sitting in a cemetery, Matt is surprised to see someone (Edmund) coming out of the wall, and more surprised to find herself getting caught up in his life, trying to help him with something that is obviously wrong. In the course of this, they end up returning to a house that Edmund considered a safe place as a teen - a haunted house that caused his life to change dramatically one Halloween. From there, they track down Suki, who had also used the house as a safe haven. With Matt's influence, both Edmund and Suki are able to face what happened in the past, and start to address the issues

At the end of the first book, they have made some clear changes, and made a start on making amends, but there are still lots of questions hanging - lots of threads that have been hinted at as part of the story that haven't been addressed. These are covered, in the most part, in the second book, which looks at where the other children who used the house as a safe refuge have gone, and how it has affected their lives.

WARNING: there are clear discussions of past child abuse and implied rape. ( )
  fred_mouse | Aug 16, 2017 |
I'd highly recommend this and its sequel for any fans of Charles de Lint - the combination of earth magic with contemporary young characters reminds me a lot both in theme and feel of a lot of de Lint's writing.

'A Red Heart of Memories' tells the story of Matt, a homeless young(ish) woman who has the ability (probably due to past drug abuse) to mentally speak with inanimate objects. She meets a drifter, Edmund, who communes with 'spirit' and together they set out to recover his past, finding his childhood friends, and meeting a ghost in a haunted house who has a lot to do with the strangenesses of the past....

However, in 'A Red Heart of Memories', while I liked both the writing and the overall ambiance of the book, I did have a few problems with it.
I found the fact that all of the characters were 'damaged goods' dealing with or trying to overcomes childhood traumas/abuse a little bit irritating, and that the language/ideas about overcoming abuse were a little bit too based in today's pop-psych concepts... finding and rejoining with the "inner child" and all that sort of stuff.
(In my personal opinion, if your body's natural defenses have 'blocked' a traumatic memory, there's a good reason for it, and dredging it up to relive the pain is probably just about the worst/ most unhealthy thing you can do.)
But anyway.
I also felt that a large segment of the middle of the book, (the part dealing with 'gold') while charming, original and interesting, didn't forward the plot at all, or go anywhere (and it's not even brought up in the sequel at all!). ( )
  AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |
Wow, and weird. I'd tried to read this several times, and kept stalling near the beginning - this time I managed to get caught up in it, and it's lovely. I've read A Stir of Bones (the prequel, written after this and its sequel) a couple times, so I had some context for Edmund and the House and Nathan; Matt is the POV character, but her story is quite thoroughly entwined with the rest. Fascinating forms of magic, of many and varied sorts; great characters, richly drawn, and with complex motivations that sometimes not even they understand. And a nice quest story for a frame - figuring out Edmund's past, and when that's complete (the arc for this book), an extension to bringing the four of them back to the House. Lovely. ( )
  jjmcgaffey | Oct 29, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
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This book is for:
Jenny, and Nancy E.,
M. J. Engh, owlwoman,
and the Poetry Lunch crowd:
Holly Arrow, Martha Bayless,
Bruce Holland Rogers,
Ray Vukcevich, and Leslie What
and for Lois Tilton, who asked for more about Matt
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Matt Black met the moss man on Christmas Eve.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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From Bram Stoker Award winner and Nebula and World Fantasy Awards finalist Nina Kiriki Hoffman comes a novel of two young people who live outside ordinary reality -- and who are about to discover life's extraordinary possibilities...

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