Nepenthe is a company that specializes in memory removal. For people who have experienced trauma in their lives, they can elect to have that memory removed forever. But, Nepenthe is coming under increasing scrutiny as customers experience “traces” or fragments of their memory returning. In this novel the lives of five characters are deeply changed by their experiences with Nepenthe and their stories weave together in mysterious ways.
I really enjoyed this novel. I thought it was suspenseful, and thought provoking and took place in an eerily possible alternate world.
I thought the characters were very compelling. The book follows five characters: Noor, a psychologist at Nepenthe, Mei, a college dropout experiencing traces of a place that she doesn’tremember visiting, Oscar, a man who has no memory of his past, William, an ex-police officer desperate to have a memory removed, and Finn, an architect who discovers that his wife had a memory removal. I did think some characters were more fully realized than others were, but I was interested in every character’s story.
The book is intricately plotted, but I felt that the plot moved quickly because it is told in vignettes, cycling through each person’s story four or five times. That said, it does take a while to understand how each character is connected to each other and the larger story, so the beginning of the book does feel slower than the conclusion. I didn’t mind the slower start to the novel because there was rich character building and an interesting mystery tied into Noor’s storyline.
Overall, I thought this was an enjoyable read that asks big questions about trauma and memory. Even knowing how some characters respond to the treatment, I still found myself drawn to the idea of having a memory erased. It’s easy to see how memory removal could take over the world if it ever became possible.
CW: car accident, suicide, death, depression, PTSD, incest