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Tell Me an Ending

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What if you didn't have to live with your worst memories?

Across the world, thousands of people are shocked by a notification that they once chose to have a memory removed. Now they are being given an opportunity to get that memory back. Four individuals are filled with new doubts, grappling with the unexpected question of whether to remember unknown events, or to leave them buried forever.

Finn, an Irish architect living in the Arizona desert, begins to suspect his charming wife of having an affair. Mei, a troubled grad school dropout in Kuala Lumpur, wonders why she remembers a city she has never visited. William, a former police inspector in England, struggles with PTSD, the breakdown of his marriage, and his own secret family history. Oscar, a handsome young man with almost no memories at all, travels the world in a constant state of fear.

Into these characters’ lives comes Noor, a psychologist working at the Nepenthe memory removal clinic in London. The process of reinstating patients’ memories begins to shake the moral foundations of her world. As she delves deeper into how the program works, she will have to risk everything to uncover the cost of this miraculous technology.

A provocative exploration of secrets, grief, and identity—of the stories we tell ourselves—Tell Me an Ending is a sharp, dark, and devastating novel about the power of memory.

Never Let Me Go meets Black Mirror in this thrilling speculative debut about a tech company that deletes unwanted memories, the consequences for those forced to contend with what they tried to forget, and the dissenting doctor who seeks to protect her patients from further harm.

448 pages, Hardcover

First published March 1, 2022

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About the author

Jo Harkin

1 book209 followers
Jo Harkin's passion is literary sci-fi, with an emphasis on how new technology impacts human lives. Her first speculative fiction novel, Tell Me An Ending, is released in March 2022 in the US and May 2022 in the UK. She lives in Berkshire, England.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 994 reviews
Profile Image for Nilufer Ozmekik.
2,302 reviews43.9k followers
April 23, 2023
Black Mirror meets Eternal Sunshine of Spotless Mind gives you interesting, complex, thought provoking plot concept!

What if there is a chance to get rid of your entire traumatic memories that give you setbacks, unendurable pain, preventing you to move on: will you accept those memories’ erasing process? Or you keep them by embracing your pain and roughing up to endure more challenges life throws at you!

First of all: some people have higher pain tolerance. The same incidents they get involved may create different effects on each of them because there are so many different perspectives, reactions. As some of the people look at the same event from rational side as the other can look at more emotional side. Nobody is the same! Minds, hearts, souls may perceive things from different angles!

Philosophical side if this book made me intrigued a lot but crowded characters’ back stories were a little confusing to catch!

Eventually I returned back several times and reread some chapters to solve this problem.
Mei, Finn, Oscar,William are the characters who had the deleting procedure and Noor is the psychologist who has been working for Nepenthe the company where the memory erasing procedures have been taking place since 90’s.

I have hard time to connect most of the characters but the triggering subjects they’re dealing with which force them to erase their some main parts of their life stories were well developed. Oscar was the most relatable character and truly my favorite.

Overall: it was a little compelling read with so many POVs and back character stories but the author wrapped up the ending so adroitly which made me give this book extra half star and I rounded up 3.5 stars to 4 sci-fi, pain, life choices, mistakes, resentments stars!

It was truly unique reading journey! But you have to clear my mind to focus on entire stories to enjoy it fully.

Special thanks to NetGalley and Scribner for sharing this digital reviewer copy with me in exchange my honest thoughts.
Profile Image for jessica.
2,555 reviews35.5k followers
April 5, 2022
i really, really wanted to love this. the promise of this story exploring the question of “who are we, if not our memories?” had me geeking out, especially because ive been craving a good sci-fi read. unfortunately, this left me feeling unsatisfied.

and i think its because of the way the book is structured. the narrative is more of an anthology, a collection of short stories set in the same world, rather than a singular plot. only a couple of the POVs are connected, and very loosely at that. and so there really is nothing pushing them, or the story, forward - no connection, no purpose, no development. just them simply existing with their own dilemmas of choosing to recover a suppressed memory.

so, not a fan of the execution. i think if this had been more connected, choosing to either be character-based or plot-driven, rather than a weak attempt at neither, it most likely would have worked for me. because the foundation and the concept is there, its just not presented or developed well.

ambitious for a debut novel, and didnt quite meet the mark, but i have to give the author respect for trying.

PS - on a totally completely random side note, this book taught me that british people call baby/primary teeth milk teeth!?! i lived in london and i had never heard that in my life. lol.

2.5 stars
Profile Image for Michael David (on hiatus).
656 reviews1,608 followers
April 26, 2022
What if you could erase a painful memory from your brain? What if you had a once in a lifetime chance to recover that memory?

In Jo Harkin’s speculative fiction debut, those questions are explored.

Nepenthe is a company where you can go to have a memory/event permanently removed from your brain. You’ve seen something tragic and want to forget it? They can help you. You did something terrible and want to forget it? They can help you. You had your heart broken and want to forget it? They can help you.

There are two types of clients: self-informed (the client knows that they had a memory erased, but don’t know the specific details of said memory) and self-confidential (the client won’t even remember coming to the clinic to have the procedure. The memory and everything surrounding its deletion will be gone).

Noor works for the memory clinic, and is very aware of some of their clientele receiving traces - little snippets of the memories they were never supposed to regain. Nepenthe has no choice but to reach out to numerous clients to let them know they once had a memory removal…and have an opportunity to reclaim the memory if he/she sees fit.

The POVs rotate with Noor, as well as four clients who have the chance to have their memory restored. But which damage is worse? The loss of details? Or regaining knowledge of the details they initially wanted to forget?

Tell Me An Ending is a thought-provoking story that quietly captivated me as I got to know the characters and their backgrounds. It’s fascinating and heartbreaking, suspenseful and thoughtful. Morality comes into play, and it’s interesting to think if a company like this is actually beneficial or not. After reading this, I imagine it could (and would) go both ways.

Some POVs were more interesting and intense than others, but I still wanted to know what was going on in all of them. There were also a few moments that dragged on for reasons I couldn’t pinpoint (After all, the version I read is 525 pages and feels heavier than The Bible). However, I wouldn’t let that deter you if this sounds interesting. It really was, and for the most part, I flew through the pages as each chapter ended with a thread that I just HAD to pull!

I have a feeling this one will stay on my mind for quite awhile, seeing as I won’t be requesting a memory removal for reading it.

Sincere thank you to Hutchinson Heinemann for sending me a physical ARC in exchange for an honest review. Now available in the U.S. UK Publishing Date: 5/12/22.

Review also posted at: https://bonkersforthebooks.wordpress.com
Profile Image for MarilynW.
1,196 reviews3,036 followers
June 17, 2022
This isn't really a review because I only listened to this audiobook for about 1.5 hours. The narration was fine but I feel like the story hadn't even started yet in this 16 hour 21 minute story. The synopsis sounded good but I was so bored listening to people about who knows what (they don't even seem to know what). I finally called it quits.
Profile Image for Ceecee.
2,078 reviews1,658 followers
March 28, 2022
Nepenthe edits out 'wrong notes' in your memory and removes all its traces, so many seize the opportunity to wipe out the things that haunt them. Now however, after law suits, many are offered the chance to have their memories restored. Can you imagine the impact and dilemma this will bring? This could blow up lives. The novel focuses on five individuals, there's Irish architect Finn who lives in Arizona and is very concerned when his wife Mirande gets the memory restoral message which he knew nothing about. Mei, a troubled university dropout currently living in Kuala Lumpur with her father. A young man called Oscar who just keeps running but he knows not what from and who has no memories before the age of 16. William who is a former police officer and is struggling with PTSD and the breakdown of his marriage. Finally, Noor, a psychologist who works at Nepenthe in London.

This has a very complex, clever and disturbing plot which makes you ponder which of your own memories you might erase! It's not an easy read because at times it goes deep into philosophy and morality which has me floundering a bit and it slows the pace of the storytelling too. However, the author soon pulls you back into the characters lives. I find Noor's story and dilemma and Oscar's situation the most fascinating and the ones I'm most invested in. You feel William's pain and his wife's frustration and though I do understand the purpose of Mei's story that's the one that works least well for me.

This is a very original and unique novel that takes you on a thought provoking and at times emotional journey with these characters and there's everything from anger to suspicion to sadness. At times there's suspense, there is definitely tension, some fear, anger and sadness. The ending is excellent with the story fragments being wrapped up cleverly and well and this pushes the books rating firmly into four stars in my opinion. I guess there is no eternal sunshine or spotless mind. This is a very impressive debut novel about the power of memory and I look forward to reading what the author creates next.

With thanks to NetGalley and especially to Random House UK, Cornerstone for the much appreciated arc in return for an honest review.
Profile Image for Mai.
194 reviews266 followers
July 20, 2023
I haven't read Never Let Me Go, but this does feel oddly reminiscent of Black Mirror, especially in that some of the stories are markedly better than others.

I would give Mei five stars. Excellent name. The rest of them get a solid three. While this is split in five parts, I'd say the beginning and middle are most exciting. Even as the storylines begin to tie together in the end, I found I'd lost interest.

What is memory? What if you could get a certain memory removed? How would this affect other memories, and your ability to live your life? Definitely an interesting concept. I enjoy the speculative fiction that has been coming out.

Thank you to Goodreads and the publisher.
Profile Image for Ric.
1,050 reviews115 followers
March 9, 2022
I was so excited for this book, it was marketed as Black Mirror meets Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, two things that I love. But the problem was that it dragged so much that I couldn’t get into the story at all. Part of that was the format for me, it felt almost like a short story collection that took place in the same universe because they were so disconnected. I’m not sure if it was character or plot driven either, because none of the characters actually developed and the plot was paper thin at best. Easily the most disappointing book of the year for me so far. I understand the positive reviews, it just wasn’t for me unfortunately.
Profile Image for Brandice.
911 reviews
June 9, 2022
Tell Me An Ending is a speculative fiction story of Nepenthe, a memory removal clinic in the UK. A large group of people across the world receive a notice that they previously had a memory removed and now have the chance to have it restored.

This book follows 4 individuals who contemplate whether to proceed with a restoration. These 4 characters have little overlap with one another and lead different lives. The story also follows Noor, a psychologist at Nepenthe who has admired her boss Louise for years, but is now starting to suspect her of some sketchy decisions as the clinic’s restoration information is tightly controlled.

Tell Me An Ending offers an interesting concept and raises good questions about the morality of changing big moments in life. While I appreciated this concept, I hoped to enjoy the book a little more than I did — The characters’ stories felt very separate and the book started to feel long at points. I wanted to see how things played out but I didn’t always feel hooked as I continued to read it.
Profile Image for Sheryle.
431 reviews
January 1, 2022
The premise of Tell Me an Ending was intriguing and the description promised a book that was “clever and propulsive.” While I did enjoy the premise, I didn’t think the story was particularly clever and it certainly wasn’t propulsive. If anything, except for one character’s chapters, I found the book to be sluggish.

Because the novel followed several characters’ lives, I felt I was basically just reading separate stories; however, they were not all of the same quality or interest. I also found it hard to care about any of these characters except Oscar and, perhaps, Mei.

Everything about this book felt like what we were seeing was floating on the surface. I wish the author had dug a bit deeper into the characters and the company and shown us, rather than just telling us repeatedly, what had happened.

My copy of this book was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thanks to the the author, the publisher, and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review it.
Profile Image for Marieke (mariekes_mesmerizing_books).
507 reviews336 followers
September 22, 2021
Actual rating 3.5 stars.
I loved Adam Silvera’s More Happy Than Not in which society created the possibility to forget bad memories. Tell Me an Ending has the same fascinating premise: deleting painful memories. When I read the blurb of this book, I immediately wanted to read it. It’s a thought provoking story, following four different people, Mei, Finn, Oscar and William, who have had a deleting procedure. And there’s Noor, a psychologist, who’s working at Nepenthe, the company that wipes out people’s memories since the late nineties. Noor is dealing with her own memories, the client turned into girlfriend ones. But what if somebody tells you about a holiday, you can’t remember? Or you receive an e-mail because you had a deleting procedure in the past and can’t remember anything? And what if you suspect there’s serious wrongdoing?

I really liked the writing, it’s engaging and captivating, and it made me curious. I had some trouble to connect to the characters though, all those different POV’s, and I couldn’t let go of a story I read before this one. That last part is definitely on me! Slowly, Tell Me an Ending got more interesting, although some characters still felt distant (Mei, Finn, Noor). I loved Oscar’s story most and I secretly wanted his story to be the main one because he almost had no memories at all, and his voice was really intriguing. I also liked William, the warmth I felt when he was with his kids, the cold in other situations. And both of their memories gave me a lump in my throat. And I even started to like Noor’s story in the end.

I want to give a shout out to you Jo, for giving me so many memories of my own country. I laughed when you used Erasmus (the name of a university) instead of Rotterdam. And yes, even though we Dutch still think going to a university is expensive, I’m fully aware it’s cheaper here than in the UK or in the US.

For a long time, I thought this would be a three star rating. But because of the ending, I’m tempted to round my rating up to four. So that’s my rating for now. I might change my mind in a few days, though.

I received an ARC from Scribner (Simon and Schuster) and Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Blair.
1,793 reviews4,428 followers
May 20, 2022
At the heart of Tell Me an Ending is Nepenthe, a corporation that specialises in erasing memories (as in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which is – inevitably? – referenced in the book). After the procedure, some clients are left with no idea they’ve even had a memory removed, until a high-profile trial forces Nepenthe to tell all of them and offer a ‘restoration’. We see the fallout from this development through the stories of six main characters. These are Noor, Nepenthe’s head of aftercare; sensitive teenager Mei; William, an ex-police officer with PTSD symptoms; smug middle-aged couple Finn and Mirande; and Oscar, a young man who remembers virtually nothing of his past and is perpetually on the run.

Tonally, Tell Me an Ending reminded me of Natasha Pulley’s writing; thematically and structurally, it has a lot in common with Jennifer Egan’s The Candy House. It took me a while to get into it, as the chapters alternate between characters, and it’s initially quite difficult to keep so many perspectives straight. But once I was hooked, I was hooked. The plot creates its own momentum – naturally, I wanted to know what each of these people had chosen to erase. (Noor is the only one without a missing memory, but her plotline involves a similarly compelling element of corporate intrigue.) For a book that focuses on ‘endings’, however, its own are probably the weakest part; actually, one of them is downright bizarre. I’d still recommend it if you enjoy near-future stories, and it’s hard not to be charmed by the story’s warmth and compassion.

TinyLetter | Linktree
Profile Image for Donna.
543 reviews182 followers
March 28, 2022
She knows what a happy ending is now. A happy ending is an answer. It doesn’t even have to be a happy answer. Just something that allows the book to be closed, so that everyone can move on with their lives.

Did Noor, one of the main characters in this book, get answers, and therefore her happy ending? And did the other characters, especially the ones who had certain memories removed, get theirs? This is something you’ll find out when reading this book which took the subject of memory removal further than any of the books I’ve read so far. Unlike The Binding and The Blinds, this book went into the moral implications of memory removal and the various pros and cons, and the healing, as well as the damage that the business of tinkering with brains and lives can cause. Whether this process is good or evil or somewhere in between is examined and left to the characters and readers to determine. Wisely, the author does this in a “show not tell” fashion by delving into the lives of her various characters who either knowingly or unknowingly had memories removed, and are in some cases suffering from traces of those memories. Plus, the book has a nice mystery tying the characters and everything else together, with Noor, who works for the hi tech memory removal business, Nepenthe, conducting an investigation of matters she really wish she did not suspect of her workplace, especially when her boss, Louise, whom she has idolized, may be involved.

So if you’re interested in a well written, literary style sci-fi story of this kind with a philosophical and melancholy air to it, this book might be as good a fit for you as it was for me. It had just the right amount of speculative science in it to make it believable, without overwhelming the character-centric story. I even enjoyed how the author included a reference to one of the original Star Trek episodes in which a painful memory played a poignant part. Yes, I was a Trekkie back in the day. Moving on…my only complaint about this book was it dragged a bit toward the end, despite it not being overly long. See what you think. This was a solid debut novel by this author whose books I’ll be looking for in the future.
Profile Image for Adrian Dooley.
376 reviews111 followers
May 5, 2022
Oh my, the spiel for this sounded so good, I really was in the mood for a good scifi/thriller but alas this one didnt deliver.

Based around a clinic that has developed a technique for deleting unwanted or traumatic memories, it does raise some interesting questions about the reliability of memory and its connection to "self". The problem is the structure of the book and also the writing style.

The book is told from various viewpoints of patients and staff. Most of the people arent connected to each other in any way(apart from the clinic)so their stories dont really go anywhere. The chapters I also found way too long for the structure and it meant I had a hard time remembering who was who. The writing style I didnt particularly enjoy either. There was a coldness to it that left me with little if any connection to any of the characters. I also found the book way too long as it plodded its way through at a pedestrian pace.

Im not sure what thee author wanted to achieve with this debut. As I said its a great premise but its let down by the structure and writing. It feels like there was very little editing and the author put every last thought down on the page.

A miss for me unfortunately.

Thanks to the publisher for the ARC through Netgalley.
Profile Image for Debbie.
948 reviews94 followers
March 31, 2022
A tech company, Nepenthe, can help people remove unwanted memories and have done so successfully. But now, thousands of people are receiving an email telling them they had a traumatic memory removed. They have no recollection, but are being given the chance to get it back. For the people involved, they must decide whether to find that missing piece of memory or leave their life exactly as it is. For Noor and Louse, working at the clinic, the repercussions of the reinstatement of memory is far reaching, both personally and professionally. 

I love secrets and this novel just reinforces that, combined with the sci-fi element, it was just so interesting and unique. I flew through this novel, exploring each of the characters missing memories and lives. The synopsis is spot on when it describes it as sharp, dark and devastating -  it was all of those things and truly explored the power and danger of memory. There were lots of characters and story threads running through this to remember, but aside from that it was just brilliant and definitely one I recommend.

Thanks to NetGalley and Random House UK for this gifted review copy.
Profile Image for Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship.
1,161 reviews1,255 followers
July 29, 2023
3.5 stars

This was a very fun book to read, though it left me dissatisfied in the end. It’s also a difficult one to classify, being right on the line between science fiction and contemporary literary fiction. The premise deals with a technology that can remove or restore memory, and the book explores how this affects individual lives, how it operates in society, and the ethics of it, particularly in corporate hands. The book is also interested in the science, both real memory science and the speculative techniques. But on the litfic side, the story is set in the real, modern world with only the one change, and focused on a handful of regular people and their lives and relationship challenges—no changing the world here. I want to call it a psychological thriller, as it is propulsive without being action-oriented, but then psychological thrillers tend to center deeply morally compromised protagonists and the only person here to fit that bill is seen only through the eyes of others. Though despite that, I did ultimately feel that Louise was the real central character, and would have enjoyed a book from her perspective.

What the book actually does is weave together the perspectives of five different people: Noor, a middle manager at the memory company who starts to realize there’s shady business going on while wishing for a memory removal of her own, and four people who learn that they’ve had memories removed and elected to have this information hidden from them. Mei is a college dropout seeking independence from her parents and sleuthing into her own missing memories; Oscar, a confused young man living in hiding, with no memory of his childhood; William, a former police officer whose career and marriage have fallen apart following a PTSD reaction he doesn’t understand; and Finn, a middle-aged husband and father with suspicions about the memory his wife chose to remove.

So there are a lot of different stories, and they don’t so much all come together as they illustrate different aspects of the memory removal question: why people might do it and whether it would benefit them, and whether later restorations would be a good idea. But I didn’t need them all to come together; I found each plotline engaging and the book a quick and compelling read. And the portrayal of how modern adults interact is refreshingly authentic and believable. The book pulled me in from the beginning just because the workplace dynamics felt so real. And it’s always fun to see fiction that seems informed about how the world works: the effects of lawsuits, the roles of protestors and online discourse, the behavior of side characters, all felt true to life.

(Slight spoilers below)

That said, in the end my reaction was somewhat mixed. For a book largely about the effects of traumatic memory, the fact that almost everyone’s traumatic memories prove to be bizarre freak accidents seems a bit… cheap? Lazy? Weak? Certainly unrepresentative. (I wondered if Harkin was purposely trying not to use traumas readers are likely to have, but then car accidents are very common, if not with the particular melodramatic elements seen here. And then, suicide and gaslighting are both major plot points.) What everyone else wants to forget are their failed romances—the author actually posits that 72% of people calling the company are doing so for this reason—which also struck me as quite unlikely. So much for diverse experiences among the cast.

Likewise, I found the book a bit gutless in its treatment of race—wanting to have a diverse cast on paper, without dealing with how being non-white in modern England would affect the characters’ lives. William’s whole plotline is about trying to repair his relationship with his wife, going to couples counseling, etc., yet their being interracial is never even mentioned—in fact, I assumed for most of the book that they were both black since her mother is stated to be from Jamaica, but then at the very end we’re told he has piercing green eyes and brown hair, so, white I guess? For all I know, the wife is also intended as white, for all the book deals with this aspect of her experience. Meanwhile Mei is an international adoptee and while her plotline is all about the differences between her and her parents, the racial one never comes up there either. The one sentence about Noor habitually throwing apple cores in the yard of someone who once called her a terrorist is it as far as the book’s acknowledgment of race or xenophobia.

And then in the end, I found Finn, William and Mei noticeably more believable than Oscar and Noor. Oscar feels only half fleshed out, and I wasn’t convinced by a grown adult of his background having a personality that can be summed up by “childlike goodness.” (He’s like Piranesi without the influence of the House, and I think you’ve got to be Susanna Clarke to pull off Piranesi.) Likewise, in the end I needed to know more about Noor to find her isolation and social cluelessness believable (she must be mid-30s at least!): is she neurodivergent? Traumatized? Both? Neither? How did she even wind up here? She started out promising, but I was bored by the memories of her ill-fated romance, which featured so little connection it would have made more sense as a one-night stand, and wound up not really rooting for her or believing in her sudden growth. But where the book delves into more substantial relationships—whether romances, parents and children, or colleagues—I think it does much better, with the three more connected characters feeling more real than the two most isolated ones.

Overall then, a fun book with an interesting premise, though somewhat dissatisfying in retrospect and one that’s fading quickly from my own memory. Potentially worth checking out if you’re interested. It is a debut, and promising enough I’ll be interested to see what Harkin writes next. I hope it will be gutsier.
Profile Image for Stela.
946 reviews354 followers
October 11, 2022
The idea was OK, but the development unconvincing. All characters are awfully bi-dimensional and the narative lacks tension and becomes boring in the end.
Profile Image for Taylor.
305 reviews127 followers
March 2, 2022
[4.5/5] Reading this felt like watching a Black Mirror episode, and I was here for it! 👏

Tell Me An Ending is about a company called Nepenthe that finds a way to erase particular memories. The procedure is successful for a time, until some people who have had memories removed start to experience confusing “traces” of their erased memory. (Don’t worry, this isn’t a spoiler!) The story itself focuses on 5 different people who have all been touched by or are involved in Nepenthe in some way.

Not only is the premise fascinating on a philosophical level, but the plot and characters kept me totally engrossed. The story keeps you guessing, while also exploring themes of memory, family, and identity. So well-written and highly recommended! (Be aware there is some trauma involved, so check the trigger warnings if needed).

**Thanks to Scribner Books for the gifted review copy
Profile Image for Cheri.
407 reviews
February 1, 2022
The very best book I have read this year, thus far. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind mixed with Memento and even a bit of Vanilla Sky. Raises all the glorious questions regarding the removal of memories and “wiping out” that which you’d like to forget. Would doing so be harmful in other ways? Is it better to heal naturally from trauma or delete it from having happened? This is a deep, suspenseful page turner that kept me riveted until the last word. HIGHLY recommend to anyone who has interest in this topic or those movies listed above.
Profile Image for Desiree.
529 reviews19 followers
April 2, 2022
Excellent. Thought-provoking. Chilling. Affirming of the human experience and what makes us who we are. Is man made of memories? Or do memories make the man? Highly recommend.

Note: Some may not appreciate the gay female character.
Profile Image for Brian Clegg.
Author 206 books2,651 followers
May 16, 2022
The idea of wiping an event from someone's memory is a long-standing science fiction trope. It has cropped up regularly in both written SF and movies from Men in Black to Total Recall. Usually, it is approached from the viewpoint of the person whose memory has been altered as they slowly uncover the surprising realities of their past - but Jo Harkin has managed to revitalise the concept with a totally different approach - and the result is impressive.

More often that not, the memory wiping in fiction has been imposed and is a secret procedure. Here, and most like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (which is referenced in this novel), it's all open and above board (or so it seems). But there are two particularly clever aspects to Harkin's take on the subject that raise it above an Eternal Sunshine clone. Firstly, a major focus is the company Nepenthe that undertakes the procedure - the uncomfortable juxtaposition of a modern corporate's attempted positioning as a caring organisation with human interactions is very well handled.

Secondly, there are two types of procedure. Some customers know that they have had a memory removed. Others, though - brought in at night - no longer know that they have had the procedure. This opens up all sorts of interesting possibilities when it's discovered that the procedure can be reversed - and Nepenthe are legally forced to contact clients who don't know they've had a memory erased to ask if they want it restored. This is a brilliant twist that really drives the narrative.

There were issues. The book is structured as five strands that eventually intertwine. Each strand has a separate chapter with its own set of characters. This meant that after reading the opening chapter focussed on what is arguably the most important character, Noor, a psychologist at Nepenthe, we then have to read 85 pages before we return to Noor - by then, to be honest, I'd forgotten half of what happened in that first strand. Even at the end of the book I was still getting the different strands confused. Now, this might have been a clever meta-comment on the nature and fragility of memory - which is obviously a subject at the heart of the book - but it did make reading it unnecessarily hard work.

Apart from that, I did think that the old epithet of 'show don't tell' could have been followed better - there was a lot of internal monologue. And I disliked the affectation of formatting dialogue from the past without any speech marks, which just made it difficult to read.

However, these are relatively minor things. Harkin gives us a thought-provoking exploration of the grey area of whether we should undertake a procedure that a person thinks is good for them, but may not actually be (a consideration that could be applied to a number of existing socially-driven medical procedures), as well as helping us think about the nature of memory and how much it influences who we are as individuals. The final two sections are gripping as everything starts to come together and things that have been happening that were mysterious are finally explained. Despite my dislike of the structure, this is one of the best novels I've read this year.
Profile Image for Fernanda.
73 reviews1 follower
February 28, 2022
In a future when memory deletion is possible, we follow 4 characters dealing with the consequences of memory deletion and the possibility of getting the memory back. Alongside them, we also follow Noor's story, one of the employers of the company responsible for the deletions.

When I finished the book, I felt I read a short story collection that had the same theme: how memory shapes us and how the past impacts our future and the lives of our loved ones. I didn't feel I was reading just one cohesive narrative but 5 distinct stories with the some of the clients interloping in Noor's story for a quick "hello". And most of them didn't have a satisfying ending in my opinion; by wanting to leave them open but still wanting to give closure, I felt the author didn't achieve either. Also, all of the answers for the misteries in the book are shown to the reader before the characters know them, so we have to wait for the characters to catch up to what we already know. That happens so much and it definitely hampered my enjoyment

I didn't see any development for any character, specially because of how the story is presented: every arc for the characters comes as a memory, so when the characters do change is out of the blue due to what they've remembered.

I did like the concept and the first part of the book I really enjoyed, but the rest of the book didn't live up to them.

Thank you Netgalley, author, and publisher for the ARC.
Profile Image for Stephanie Wrobel.
Author 3 books1,173 followers
May 24, 2022
Unquestionably one of the best books I’ll read this year. Figuring out how disparate narrative threads are going to weave together is my favorite reading puzzle—this novel has five POVs, so yes, it’s a thinker.

What if we could get rid of our worst memories? How would we change? Would we better off—or worse? Memory has long fascinated me (probably because mine is garbage), so this one was especially intriguing. Plus, the writing!

Swoon. 6 gajillion stars.
Profile Image for Jo_Scho_Reads.
663 reviews43 followers
June 3, 2023
Nepenthe is a tech company which can erase unwanted memories. And now those who chose to remove memory can have it restored if they wish.

William, Oscar, Finn and Mei feel like something is missing but they can’t put their finger on what. As they muddle through their lives it becomes evident that a piece of puzzle relating to their memories are missing. Will they ever get it back.

Sadly I think I may be an outlier with this one. I just couldn’t get invested with the plot or the characters, in fact every day when I returned to the book I could barely remember anything of the plot I’d read the previous day (the irony of this in relation to the book not being lost on me!) as nothing seemed to stick. It did pick up towards the end of the book when the missing memory fragments were revealed, but it wasn’t worth the wait to be honest.

Others have loved this book so don’t be put off. A bit too techy and futuristic for me, but may be engrossing to others.
Profile Image for Noha Badawi.
507 reviews510 followers
Want to read
January 7, 2022
Scribner, Simon & Schuster were kind enough to provide me with an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review
Excited to dive right in.
Profile Image for Chuck Jones.
104 reviews
March 9, 2022
Very interesting premise, but I just couldn't get into this book. I didn't find any of the characters or their accompanying stories interesting and they all just drug along very sluggishly. The only character I was really interested in was Noor. I felt like there was too much "fluff" in each character's chapters and it wasn't necessary to the plot and was, unfortunately, boring.

Only completed about 67% of the book before I decided to move on.
Profile Image for Allie Lane Sandu.
115 reviews4 followers
March 31, 2022
I really waffled on how to rate this because I didn’t like quite a bit of it, but it did keep me engaged and parts of it I really did enjoy a lot. I even went back just now and changed the star rating right before I hit “done”. So yeah I really don’t know where I stand on this one. But the overall concept was very interesting!
Overall 3.5
Profile Image for Hannah.
594 reviews1,055 followers
June 3, 2023
Brilliant, brilliant premise, lackluster execution. What a disappointment.
Profile Image for Denise.
2,009 reviews85 followers
March 4, 2022
This debut science fiction thriller is complex and completely absorbing.

If our personality and state of mind is dependent on our memories, experiences, and relationships then what happens if part of those is erased? A clinic offers a service to particular clients interested in deleting traumatic recent memories. Napenthe supposedly does careful psychological evaluation of potential patients before performing the procedure. All does not go well, however, and some of those who had undergone the memory removal experience trace recall. When a class action lawsuit is brought against the company due to this side effect, some of those affected are offered memory restoration.

The narrative is polyphonic with a collection of very interesting characters all connected through Nepenthe. All are struggling with the concept of the memory deletion and how it has strained their current lives. Since none of them know exactly what has been removed from their consciousness, they don’t understand their feelings and behavior.

There is quite a lot to absorb in this novel as it touches on moral and philosophical questions about self and how the brain deals with traumatic incidents. How important is memory, which is often not as accurate as we would like to believe, in shaping how we respond to life. Assuming this ability to erase specific, targeted events is possible, then is it a good thing or a bad thing — and why or why not. As one character says, it’s important to ask questions.

I really enjoyed this and it has given me much to ponder. It would make an excellent choice for discussion with a book club interested in going deep. The author writes well and the story drew me in keeping me engrossed for hours. I will definitely look for another title in the future.

Thank you to NetGalley and Scribner for this e-book ARC to read, review, and recommend.
Profile Image for Harrison.
102 reviews1 follower
September 20, 2021

This isn't the first piece of media to explore the idea of how having memories taken away would affect a person (the book itself even references Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, with one character complaining about how unrealistic the film is), but that doesn't stop it from being an effective one. It centers around a company that boasts its ability to remove specific memories from people's minds, and it tells its story through a lattice of different characters, varying in connection to each other, with different relationships to the company and the technology. When a novel establishes this kind of network of characters, it's sort of signaling from the get-go that their connections with each other are going to deepen (or, if the connection isn't clear yet, it'll occur at some point). It's a pleasing structure, but sometimes superficially so. I think that's something this novel grapples with a bit, but doesn't succumb to completely. The characters are all fairly interesting and well-developed, but it's an inevitable consequence of this structure that the reader wants to know more about somebody, who was left not as well developed in favor of a different story or character.

The science fiction elements are done quite well, with the pseudoscientific rules of how everything works seeming logical and consistent. I don't think it's necessarily the responsibility of a science fiction novel to explain these things, but when it does, it's nice for it to make some sort of sense. I like the narrative style, as well, and the way thoughts are presented. It's interesting for memories to be presented in a way almost identical to the present, except often without quotation marks for dialogue. It gives the impression of the memory being experienced then and there, rather than the narrator unearthing it for the purpose of the story.

An intriguing, emotional, and thematically dense novel.

Thank you to Netgalley and Scribner for the opportunity to read this ahead of its release via an eARC.
Profile Image for B. H..
174 reviews142 followers
January 19, 2022
First of all: disregard my rating for a moment. This was a very engrossing book. I couldn't put it down. In fact, I sacrificed several hours of sleep and was behind on work because of it. So if you're looking for something fun and propulsive to get you out of a reading slump, go for it.

The problem is that I think it promised more than it could eventually deliver. The set-up to every story deflated rather than exploded. I finished it and felt...hollow. I really liked the characters, there were two characters in particular whose endings I loved. But to be perfectly honest this book does not have the literary depth to get away with the subdued endings that it gave us and the philosophical discussions felt a bit contrived. The comparison with Never Let Me Go does not feel deserved at all.

There were a couple of red herrings in the beginning that I appreciated. Shows that the author knows what she's doing for certain. But still not satisfying enough emotionally for more than a 3 or 3.5 stars.
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