The Constant Reminder
The laugh comes back to him, time and time again. It comes in the night, and at other unexpected moments, in his dreams – an echo of its pitch and timbre. But from the little girl it comes whole, pure and absolute. It is Nenebah. And in an instant the sound of that laugh can return Kai to a hillside overlooking the city eight years ago, to the moment following a lost joke, the playful bite during a morning’s embrace. (443)
The development of Kai throughout the novel is a measure of warmth; at first we are exposed to the serious and meticulous surgeon, and at last we see the father and lover within him. Unfortunately he lost his love – Mamakay – years before her death, but he endures – unknowingly placing himself in a position closest to his own memory of love. While taking on a child can be a heavy burden, the quote above shows us that Kai has the more desirable outcome between Mamakay’s lovers. While Kai can never have the real Mamakay, he can have the largest live piece of her that will ever continue to exist. The child is an answer to the man’s desire for agency – to express his love.
We are also left here with the sense that Kai has healed somewhat. He was always the man struck by painful nightmares and memories of violence, whereas now it is a “laugh that comes back to him […] in his dreams.” The child acts as an agent for the late Mamakay, healing Kai as her daughter grows to resemble her mother. While Adrian is distant and will live out the remainder of his life with a memory of love that could fragment with time, Kai has the child to bring forth his love as a father, and act as fuel for his own memory of love. We learn here that the memory of love can hurt, but the ability to fulfill a love can heal.
What do you think about Kai as the new father? How has your view of the character changed over the course of this novel? How has your understanding of love been influenced by the characters in The Memory of Love?