I had an imaginary friend when I was little. Oddly, I shared the friend, whose name was Melman, with my brother. We both very much believed in Melman, or that’s the way it seemed to me at the time.
Of my four children, only one has had an imaginary friend. The friend was named Cockies-Wockies and lived with us for nearly two years. Cockies-Wockies left when my son started school. I understand why, now that I have read Memoirs of an Imaginary Friendby Matthew Green (who writes under the name of Matthew Dicks in the US).
Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend is the story of Budo, an imaginary friend who has been ‘alive’ for five years (a staggeringly long time in the world of imaginary friends). Budo’s ‘imaginer’ is Max. Budo has lasted a lot longer than most imaginary friends because Max needs him more than other kids need their imaginary friends and when something out of the ordinary happens, only Budo can save Max.
Green has created a strange, intriguing and impressive world of imaginary friends. I relished the carefully thought out details such as the fact that imaginary friends only survive until the day comes that the child stops imagining them and then the fade away;
‘I want to be mad at her human friend, Meghan, because it is Meghan’s fault that Graham is dying. She doesn’t believe in Graham anymore. When Graham dies, Meghan’s mother will ask Meghan where her friend has gone, and Meghan will say something like, ‘Graham doesn’t live here anymore,’ or ‘I don’t know where Graham is’… And her mother will turn and smile, thinking her little girl is growing up. But no. That is not what’s going to happen…. Graham is going to die.’
Imaginary friends only have the skills and details that their ‘imaginer’ first thought of when they were created (hence many imaginary friends don’t have ears but have special skills such as being able to pass through doors);
‘”How come you can walk through fences and I can’t?”
“We can do what our human friends imagined us to do. My friend imagined that I looked like this and can walk through doors. Alexis imagined that your skin is yellow and you cannot walk through doors.”
It’s the kind of Oh that says, ‘You just explained a gigantic thing to me.’
And of course many imaginary friends are odd characters – one is a hair bow with eyes, another a pen, and another has legs that don’t bend.
‘I once saw an imaginary friend pop up in Max’s kindergarten classroom for fifteen minutes and then just disappear. It was like someone inflated her in the middle of the room. She got bigger and bigger and bigger like one of those people-shaped balloons they sell at parades… A big, pink girl with pigtails in her hair and yellow flowers for feet. But when story time was done, it was like someone popped her with a pin. She shrank and shrank until I couldn’t see her anymore. I was scared watching that pink girl disappear. Fifteen minutes is nothing.’
As Budo can pass through doors and windows and also does not sleep, he has access to both the world of children and adults. While Max sleeps, Budo spends time with Max’s parents, visits the 24-hour petrol station nearby or goes to the children’s hospital where there are lots of imaginary friends. Budo’s observations of the adult world are insightful –
‘The principal sounds worried. She uses the word ‘situation’ three times when talking about Danny. When adults use ‘situation’ a lot, it means that things are serious.’
‘Max’s dad says nothing. It’s the silence that adults use to say stuff they don’t want to say.’
You’re left to draw your own conclusions about Max, although the detail suggests that he has Aspergers. Of course I can’t remember what went on in my eight-year-old mind, however some of Max’s thoughts and actions don’t quite marry with being eight years old (he comes across as younger).
As you can probably guess from the number of quotes I’ve included, I really enjoyed the detail in this story. So what missed the mark? The plot drifted along for for the first half of the book and then the ending seemed a bit rushed and it left me feeling a little flat. That said, I can’t think of an alternative conclusion to the story that would of been happier so perhaps I should just shut-up.
3/5 Memorable and quite different to anything I’ve read before.
One of Max’s favourite meals is chicken and rice. I’m sure his preference is for something plain but I like my chicken and rice with flavour.