What would life be if you could forget your most painful memories?
Emmett Farmer’s family is horrified when a bookbinder requests Emmett as her apprentice. Under her guidance, he will learn to lay hands on people, copy their memories onto paper and bind those memories between two covers. Once the memories are committed to the page, their creators forget their most traumatic moments. Sexual assault and violence are no more, but what’s left in their place? Is it worse “to feel nothing, or to grieve for something you no longer remembered?” Emmett asks. “Surely when you forgot, you’d forget to be sad, or what was the point? And yet that numbness would take part of your self away. It would be like having pins and needles in your soul.”
In The Binding, acclaimed young adult author Bridget Collins explores the way memory shapes a person in times both good and bad. Emmett learns that his trade is controversial—considered witchcraft by some—but that he’s powerless to avoid it. His mentor sees binding as a kind act for those who want to leave trauma behind, but other binders aren’t so ethical. Some practitioners sell books on the black market. Other binders take advantage of people’s need for money and purchase their memories. When Emmett spots a book bearing his own name, the ethical quandary becomes personal.
Collins’ interest in bookbinding is apparent in her enchanting descriptions of these vessels of memories. She also found inspiration in her work with the Samaritans, the British charity organization she volunteered with, working with people who had experienced trauma.
The Binding is an imaginative, thought-provoking tale of how—for better and worse—moments can define who we become.