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3.59  ·  Rating details ·  16,272 ratings  ·  2,411 reviews
A funny, sexy, profound dramedy about two young people at a crossroads in their relationship and the limits of love.

Benson and Mike are two young guys who live together in Houston. Mike is a Japanese American chef at a Mexican restaurant and Benson's a Black day care teacher, and they've been together for a few years -- good years -- but now they're not sure why they're st
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published October 27th 2020 by Riverhead Books
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Terry And it fits well with the whole Houston setting. Memorial Drive, Memorial Park, as well as the Memorial neighborhood. Good choice of title.
And it fits well with the whole Houston setting. Memorial Drive, Memorial Park, as well as the Memorial neighborhood. Good choice of title.

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Average rating 3.59  · 
Rating details
 ·  16,272 ratings  ·  2,411 reviews

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Feb 20, 2021 rated it liked it
You learn about Ben and Mike as they unravel their own lives separately, together. Grief, pain and anger saturate each chapter but also the journey of falling in and out and back in love. The feelings of new relationships met with long term hurt. Unfortunately I don’t love ambiguous endings, which is why I’m giving this a three, but I really loved the story building around two characters living two very separate lives, together.
I so loved the representation of queer men of color in Memorial. Beyond the importance of featuring both a queer Asian man and a queer Black man, Bryan Washington imbues these characters with depth. Mike is a fat Japanese American chef who has a lot of sex instead of confronting his internal issues. Benson is a Black, HIV positive day care teacher who is more on the timid side though he too also bottles up how his family trauma affects him. Washington highlights their racialized experiences (e.g ...more
Paris (parisperusing)
“There’s this phenomenon that you’ll get sometimes—but not too often, if you’re lucky—where someone you think you know says something about your gayness that you weren’t expecting at all. Ben called it a tiny earthquake. I don’t think he was wrong. You’re destabilized, is the point. How much just depends on where the quake originates, the fault lines.”

For my first time reading Bryan Washington's work, this was one helluva first impression. Memorial is a beautifully layered debut novel, one I've
Elyse  Walters
Nov 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
Library overdrive audiobook... read by Orlagh Cassidy

We are introduced to a gay couple living together in Houston, Texas. Mike is Asian and works as a chef.
Benson is African-American, and is a daycare teacher.

Towards the beginning of the book - the author describes in graphic details Mike and Benson fucking....nothing subtle about it.
I admit it threw me ...and I questioned the validity and purpose....

As I kept reading though...( sex scenes less detailed)... I was beginning to see where this b
Anna Avian
Oct 31, 2020 rated it did not like it
I listened to the audiobook and let me just say this – Bryan Washington’s voice, narrating Benson, is so extremely monotonous and lacking emotion it almost put me to sleep several times.

This book was a disappointment. So slow and underwhelming. Basic level of storytelling, language is totally flat. Short, pointless sentences. No plot to speak of. Characters lack depth and personality. Mike and Benson’s relationship is built on their mutual laziness rather than affection and passion. I couldn’t
This book ended up being just okay for me. Things I loved about this book include the diverse representation, reading about two queer men of color was really something special and something I'd like to read more of. Mike is Japanese American and Ben is Black, Ben is also HIV+ so he has a very unique perspective, and their relationship was really interesting and sad to read about. I love that this writing feels so real and raw, but at the same time I feel like there wasn't much of a plot. This is ...more
Ron Charles
Oct 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
“Memorial” is a profoundly sensitive story about the rough boundaries of love in a multicultural society. In fact, no other novel I’ve read this year captures so gracefully the full palette of America. The range of cultures, races, generations and sexual identities contending with each other in these pages is not a woke argument; it’s the nature of modern family life fully realized.

To read the rest of this review, go to The Washington Post:
“It's like we're in some fucked-up rom-com, I said. It's like we're both fucked-up rom-com villains.”

Maybe it's my fault for 'hyping' myself too much but I found Memorial to be a wee bit disappointing. First of all, the lack of quotations marks. So many authors are using this technique that it now seems passé. And what does this stylistic choice accomplish? If we really wanted to write as 'realistically' as possible we wouldn't bother with punctation marks or with noting 'he/she said'.

Set in
Chelsea Bruning
Oct 22, 2020 rated it did not like it
A list of things I didn't like about MEMORIAL:
-incredibly dry, flat characters
-absolutely basic level storytelling (9th grade English teachers would be disappointed in this)
-excessive profanity makes up 1/3 of the book (I'm not anti-profanity, it just feels like he was using it to up his word count)
-no quotation marks (again? why is this a thing? maybe Sally Rooney fans will appreciate it)
-do people really "squeeze" each other's body parts that much?
-the most uninventive writing I have ever com
Meet Benson and Mike. In Benson's own words:
It's like we're in some fucked-up rom-com, I said. It's like we're both fucked up rom-com villains.
These are two flawed men shaped by many things but most especially their families. The story is told entirely in reported speech. There are no quotation marks to showcase dialogs. The vignettes are brief and don't give you any chance to percolate before you're bombarded with the next memory, fight, moment, feeling.

This book questions a lot a
Larry H
Nov 09, 2020 rated it liked it
3.5 stars.

Bryan Washington's new novel, Memorial , is an intriguing look at relationships and the things we don’t say to those we care about.

“...loving a person means letting them change when they need to. And that doesn’t make them any less of a home. Just maybe not one for you. Or only for a season or two. But that doesn’t diminish the love. It just changes forms.”

Benson and Mike have been together for a few years. When things work, they’re good together, but it seems lately those moments h
Bryan Washington’s debut outing, Memorial, looks at relationships in some of their most awkard and uncomfortable phases. Mike and Benson’s four-years together is at the point of inertia as the novel opens, when Mike abruptly takes off for Japan to be with his dying father. Meanwhile Benson finds himself roomies with Mike’s mother, Mitsuko, who he has only just clapped eyes on for the first time. A quiet, observant literary novel ensues.

There were parts of Memorial that I found really engaging—in
Jessica Woodbury
One reason I read less so-called "literary fiction" these days is that so much of it feels the same. The same characters in the same places doing the same things. But with MEMORIAL everything is refreshingly different, it is the rare literary novel where I felt like I recognized the places and people I saw. I didn't read any of the jacket copy, but I assumed from the cover and title that this would be a real downer. It isn't, though it's not a happy book either, but the sadness was balanced enou ...more
Feb 01, 2021 rated it it was ok
This is a story of fairly miserable people, who just want to be loved and accepted, treating other people, who also just want to be loved and accepted, rather miserably.

Despite blurbs from the likes of Ocean Vuong, Jacqueline Woodson, and Tommy Orange, it did not strike me as "funny" or "sexy" or particularly "profound". It is neither "a true page-turner" nor "a masterclass in empathy". And - despite representation on several prize longlists - I do not consider it to be well-written. It is, howe
Dec 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: recs, 2020
paints a nuanced portrait of a strained relationship between two queer men of color, Ben, a Black, poz daycare teacher, and Mike, a Japanese-American chef. after four years of dating, the couple’s love has frayed and nears its end: they fight often, suspect each other of cheating, and avoid being together. but when Mike sets out for Osaka to reconnect with his estranged, terminally ill Japanese father, just as his (divorced) mother arrives to the couple’s Houston apartment for a visit, the men a ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I love a literary relationship novel full of nuance and Memorial is just that - Benson and Mike have been together a few years but it has started to stagnate. Then Mike's mother comes to stay just as he is leaving for Osaka to be with his father who is dying. The story is told first from Benson's perspective as he works his low-wage preschool type job (which he is impressively good at) and deals with Mitsuko in their small apartment; the story shifts to Mike in Osaka. Their backstory fills in al ...more
Jordan (Jordy’s Book Club)
QUICK TAKE: this book is unbelievable. A complicated, complex story of relationships that absolutely blew me away. I loved the alternating POV between Benson and Mike and thought Washington did an excellent job writing beautiful, funny, heartbreaking characters. The story is small and intimate, and I couldn't put it down. ...more
Darryl Suite
Nov 24, 2020 rated it it was ok
Nope. The story was fine, but the execution was incredibly lackluster. Monotone dialogue, flat prose, and tedious characterizations. I thought this was flavorless. I'm confused by all the praise. I won't remember any of this by next month. I prefer Washington's short stories.  ...more
Mar 24, 2021 rated it really liked it
In Memorial, Mike and Benson are dating and living together in Houston. Mike is a Japanese American chef, Benson a Black childcare worker. While they hit it off in the past, they currently feel indifferent toward one another. Mike’s mother Mitsuko arrives from Japan for a visit just as Mike decides he’s heading there to visit his ailing father, leaving Mitsuko to stay with Benson, who she has never met before.

Memorial follows the couple while they’re apart during Mike’s trip, each considering w
Emily B
Mar 29, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked this from the beginning. I’m not sure what the word for it is, maybe gritty? Definitely depressing at times but honest and beautiful in a broken kind of way.
It definitely made me feel.
Eric Anderson
Jan 08, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bryan Washington's story collection “Lot” imaginatively delved into the fictional lives of a variety of characters in Houston. He movingly portrayed the numerous conflicts and strong bonds to be found amongst families, friends and neighbourhoods as well as many different ethnic and socio-economic groups. His debut novel “Memorial” is a kind of extended story you might have found in that collection but concentrates on couple Benson and Mike whose relationship is severely tested when Mike leaves t ...more
Michael Finocchiaro
this one started to annoy me and then exceeded my expectations. The love story between Benton, an African American daycare assistant in Houston, and Michael, his rotund Japanese boyfriend revolves around their relationships with the people around them and in particular Michael's story which includes his mother and father. It starts in a first-person narrative of Ben, switches to Mike in Osaka with his dying father (this was especially well-written), and ends again with Ben in first-person for th ...more
Frank Phillips
Dec 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
So I purchased this book on a whim a few weeks back, thinking I'd eventually get to it but not anytime soon. Then I saw it was one of that month's BOTM selections. Then I saw all of the fantastic reviews online. Then I picked it up and started reading it. This is one of those stories you will probably either love or hate, and I suppose I experienced both emotions whilst reading this! Man, did this one frustrate me in the beginning!!! It read kind of slow to me at first, and I didn't especially l ...more
Jerrie (redwritinghood)
This started strong, but quickly lost momentum. It is a story about romantic relationships centered around the relationship of Benson and Mike, but it’s also about the relationships of others in their lives (parents, co-workers). We don’t get that much insight into the actual relationship of the two narrators so much as we do their individual hang ups. Overall, everyone seems pretty miserable, but for some reason we always get to find out what everyone is eating. 🤷🏻‍♀️
Kelly (and the Book Boar)
We take our memories wherever we go, and what’s left are the ones that stick around, and that’s how we make a life.

After four years together Benson and Mike find themselves at a crossroads in their relationship. To make the situation even more difficult Mike is getting ready to go to Japan to say his final farewells to his dying father at the same time his mother is coming to the United States and will be staying with Benson.

This made it to a lot of people’s best books of 2020 and I fall on th
Feb 20, 2021 rated it did not like it
Shelves: ibr
Well that was a chore.

N.B : I probably should write more than that and explain my antipathy but I don't feel the need to expend too much more energy on this book that was, in the end, just not my thing.
I refer instead to two excellent and in my opinion fair reviews from my GR buddies ;)
Dec 12, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5, rounded up.

I was impressed by Washington's first book, the short story collection Lot: Stories, but had difficulty relating to his characters and their hardscrabble milieu. I fared much better with this novel, which seemed both tighter and more focused. I am still a bit bewildered it has made so many year-end 'best of' lists, since even though I found the story involving, the prose is fairly low-key, and it lacks the powerful emotional pull of something like Shuggie Bain, which inexplicably
Claire Reads Books
Nov 02, 2020 rated it liked it
A bit of a disappointment after Bryan Washington’s truly excellent short story collection, Lot. If you’ve read Lot, the writing here will likely feel less revelatory than it did the first time around, and while there are quiet, sparkling moments in Memorial that reminded me of the brilliance of Washington’s short fiction, here they’re held together by a much baggier narrative. Benson feels like a character straight out of Lot, which makes you wonder why Washington needed 150+ pages to tell his h ...more
Carley Thorne
Feb 16, 2021 rated it it was amazing
im nauseous, floored at how good this book is... i can't even believe something can be this good... holy fuck ...more
Althea | themoonwholistens ☾
It was a very fresh take on relationships in general and I greatly appreciated that.

The characters were so far from what I thought they would be like and while it left me wanting something more, it was endearing to see where this part of their lives were heading. It's about realistic love, acceptance, understanding that the person you love probably isn't perfect but you aren't either, the things we say (or rather don't say) to the people we love, and really at the end of the day: life.

“We tak
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Tournament of Books: Memorial 21 133 Mar 04, 2021 04:50AM  
New & Noteworthy ...: March 2021 | Memorial 1 4 Feb 27, 2021 07:09AM  
Skokie Public Lib...: Question 8: Anything else? 12 10 Feb 25, 2021 06:53AM  
AFAReads: Questions to kicks-start your reading 1 15 Feb 24, 2021 05:06PM  
AFAReads: Feb 2021: Memorial 1 19 Feb 24, 2021 05:05PM  
Skokie Public Lib...: Question 3: "Good guys" and "bad guys" 15 7 Feb 18, 2021 07:00PM  

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“But I guess that's the thing: we take our memories wherever we go, and what’s left are the ones that stick around, and that’s how we make a life.” 12 likes
“That loving a person means letting them change when they need to. And letting them go when they need to. And that doesn’t make them any less of a home. Just maybe not one for you. Or only for a season or two. But that doesn’t diminish the love. It just changes forms.” 6 likes
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