Reviews from Lord Taylor of Glencoe
Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend: Matthew Green, August 25—29, 2014
My rating: ♦♦♦♦◊
Budo has been an imaginary friend to eight-year-old Max for the last five years. Max suffers from an undefined form of high functioning autism and Budo is, to all intents and purposes his only real friend.
My assumption was that this story would be narrated by a part of Max’s subconscious, however in this world imaginary friends really do exist. They are born when they are imagined into being and disappear when they are forgotten. Otherwise, they have their own lives and interactions amongst their own community, restricted only by whatever limitations they are imagined with. So when Budo is witness to Max’s abdication, he really is trying to save his human friend.
This book is written with incredible warm, charm and pathos. The life of an imaginary friend is often a sad and isolated one; the household parents don’t acknowledge them, they are never kissed goodnight, and Budo often thinks about his ‘death’; that he will be forgotten and that it will be as if he never existed at all. Budo loses an immense number of people in this book who are either forgotten, or humans whom he can no longer see.
Despite this running theme, and of course the harrowing ordeal Max’s parents endure when he disappears, there is an underlying childlike innocence to Budo, and he tells the story in a tender way. Somehow, though often sad, it is never depressing. Budo highlights may of the positive aspects of the people he encounters, particularly Mrs Gosk, Max’s teacher. Combined with his other-worldliness and perhaps some subtle elements of Max’s autism inherent in his own personality, Budo also makes stark observations as children often do, baffled by the adult world.
The plot moves at a regular pace, and Budo’s struggles and inner conflicts make it a deep and real story, leading to a fantastic climax. There are many tiny, seemingly trivial character elements that Green throws in along the way that seem to only give more depth and roundedness to our cast but in fact, at the end he pulls together so many threads you didn’t even believe were threads that you can’t help but marvel at his genius.
Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend is only the second book I’ve ever read that made me cry at the end. It’s a charming, nostalgic and emotive window into a world so many of us shared yet quickly forgot. A brilliant concept, executed beautifully.