THERE MAY BE SPOILERS - WORSE THERE MAY BE THINGS SAID WHICH SPOIL THE STORY - I WOULD SUGGEST READING IT FIRST AT
Remembery Day by Sarah Pinsker
This is narrated first person by the daughter of a veteran of a terrible and brutal war. Thankfully we get her name a couple of paragraphs in -- Clara. Oddly enough the first section, where Clara is polishing her mother's boots for the parade while trying not to let her mother see, gave me my first "huh?" --
I had seen Nana clean them before, but this marked the first time I was allowed to do it myself.
With an important, and slightly complicated, job like polishing boots wouldn't Nana have not just let Clara see her doing the work but had her do it while being supervised before letting her do the boots by herself when there was a time constraint?
Mama didn’t often wake up this early on days she didn’t have to work.
But she does today, which is good, but how do they get her up other years? Does she wake after the Veil has been lifted, there's a whole paragraph telling how Clara has seen her mother's reaction multiple times, and yet if she normally doesn't get up this early...
I find the suggestion that it's her mother's day, so closely followed by rejecting her mother's desire to skip the parade this year, a wonderful indication that Remembery Day is not for the Vets. That the 'allies' around the world all sing the same two songs (and have to have their ceremonies at less convenient times) a warning about what this world is really like.
We watch the parade with Clara, and after are introduced to the idea that the Vets are voting on something -- for reasons best know to SP that they're voting whether to have the Veil come down again is kept secret to the next section. I'm not sure that does anything positive.
“But she wants to remember.”
“It wouldn’t do anyone any good if she ran into one of her friends in the grocery store who didn’t remember her. It has to be everybody or nobody, Nana.”
That it's Clara who explains to her grandmother makes the pressure backwards, from the next generation, more evident again. But... how is running into someone you recognise at the grocery store any different from seeing boots being polished that you don't recognise, or being crippled and scarred and not knowing how that happened -- or else believing a lie. The Veil doesn't sound like memories are being replaced, so somehow a bunch of people meeting at disability events etc don't wonder why so many of them are fuzzy about how they got crippled, or when they gave birth to children, and are good with that, and no one ever let's slip about Remembery Day, even though everyone else is keeping a big secret and stands have to be built? Does Kima never wonder why she has to get up early in the morning once a year, but doesn't ever recall what happens that day? That's easier than running into someone in the grocery store, realising they're under the Veil and pretending you mistook them for someone else?
Her explanation makes no sense, and for a while I felt the Veil was just a clever idea that needed a bit more attention to detail, and then...
It feels, creepily, like imposing a limited dementia on all the Vets.
And that makes sense -- that it is not that the Vets really vote for it, they're all over the world so they can be told that they've voted for it. But if you don't recall you're a war veteran, and no one can mention it to you, then you're probably not getting any kind of war veterans pension, no special services, no respect from the community because it's not like anyone can tell them you're a veteran, presumably there are still people crippled for other reasons. You can't supply battlefield history, or tell people what you did versus what the official history says you did... You can't speak out. You can't even be a terrible lesson in why war should be a last resort.
Kima appears to know, year to year, what's going on the one day she's allowed to remember her service -- so why does Clara feel she's in charge of the questions? Why does her mother only answer, with indirect stories, and put off talking about the war? Certainly she could look at her child growing up and say 'I must tell her about how her father died' or 'she's old enough to hear how I got injured' or at least be able to volunteer information, rather than passively responding. Unless, of course, she realises that there is something odd and wrong about the world, even just seeing it on Remembery Day, that though she clings to the idea she has control of her life, the truth is that she, and all the vets, are being silenced. And she doesn't break that silence because she knows, in her heart, that saying too much might mean she wakes up on Remembery Day one year and her daughter is dead and gone. She's putting off telling her daughter in the hope that one day she'll wake up and it won't be that same one day a year she lives over and over on a never ending loop of parades.
Who lost the war? And who won it? Or is it how they won that makes the difference to this nightmare?
And what do memories, kept so dark and buried, with no possibility of working through any trauma or grief, do to a person/personality? How many people are dying not from the effects of war but from the stress of the living under the Veil? With so many gaps, so many unremembered things, and no way to express or understand any of it.
It's a deeply disturbing thought, that I think would have benefitted from a tweak here and there to have really flowered, to grab a reader and keep them from a casual interpretation.