Review: How We Remember by J.M Monaco (Blog Tour)

How We Remember by J.M Monaco
Published by: RedDoor Publishing
Released: 13th September 2018
Page Count: 304 Pages
Edition: Paperback ARC
Rating: 3.5/5*

Thank you to the publisher for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review and also for letting me participate in this blog tour.

When Jo returns home following her mother’s death, she is shocked to learn of an unexpected inheritance and her mother’s diary. Jo thought she could put to rest her darker past until an entry implies the messy aftermath of an uncle’s sexual advances towards her when she was fifteen. Like the diary, Jo’s memory of events is full of gaps, but one thing is certain – she will never regain what was lost. What is the full story of what happened between Jo and her uncle?

How We Remember traces the effects of alcoholism, mental illness and abuse on one Irish-Italian-American, working-class family. As Jo’s first-person narrative weaves together past and present stories, she creates a portrait of her family’s life and her own as she faces new decisions amidst the tragic consequences of mismanaged grief.


When academic Jo O’Brian returns to her hometown in USA from London after the death off her mother, she is shocked to find out that not only is she the recipient of an unexpected inheritance from her mother but also the contents of her mother’s diary. The diary featuring some painful truths takes Jo back to a past she’d rather forget. Jo is troubled with health problems, job issues and has to deal with a fragmented relationship with both her older brother and her father. Can Jo fight her demons and regain what she lost in her past?

How We Remember was a riveting read full of emotion that took you on a journey surrounding issues such as mental illness, sexual abuse and alcoholism with an Irish-Italian-American working class family. It certainly paints and image of Jo’s family life and her own as she battles to deal with her own grief but also face new decisions in the family unit. 

You are taken on a journey through Jo’s life within this book and you get to see life through the eyes of a much younger Jo. You get to see her grow up chapter by chapter and find out important details such as how she met her husband and how she started to move on from events that happened throughout her childhood. You also get to understand why Jo is the way she is in the present day. 

Although How We Remember was character driven and very slow burning, I still found some elements to the plot rather tense and this in turn had me gripped. Some chapters were also very hard to read and revoked an emotional reaction from myself. The parts featuring the sexual abuse Jo went through and the aftermath really got to me. It’s something that could tear apart any family and this was certainly shown throughout the story. This is a story that really got under my skin at times and had me really thinking for a long time afterwards.

Jo was a character who was flawed and made mistakes but this made her feel extremely real. However, there were times where I felt very distant from her. It was as if she was hiding stuff at parts during the story and that she was closing herself off. I was willing her to find strength and finally battle her troubles, mind you. She was a deeply troubled character and this was powerfully shown throughout.

How We Remember was painfully, emotional read about a troubled family all coming to terms with their grief. No one gets entirely fixed come the end and there were no happing endings. Although I do love a happy ending, sometimes you just need to realise that damaged people need to continue their life to the best it can be and just need to be accepted for who they are. 

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