Wednesday, May 30, 2018

The Book of M

The Book of M by Peng Shepherd
HarperCollins Publishers: 6/5/18
eBook review copy; 496 pages
ISBN-13: 9780062669605

The Book of M by Peng Shepherd is a very highly recommended, unique dystopian novel. This is a noteworthy debut.

An epidemic called the Forgetting first starts in India when Hemu Joshi lost his shadow.  Soon it spreads and a large part of the population succumbs to the phenomenon. What happens is that people lose their shadows and their memories follow. Once shadowless people forget, they are susceptible to misremembering the world and magically can create new things. They can also forget someone exists and then... they don't.

"Why had it turned out to be that shadows were the parts of bodies where memories were stored? Why did it happen to some and not others? Once it finally did happen, why did some people forget things after two weeks and some hang on much longer? And when they finally did forget, why did the earth itself seem to forget, too? The image of the strange creature in the woods outside came to him again. Why when a shadowless forgot that deer didn’t have wings on their heads, did it become true?"

The Book of M follows a number of characters, starting with Ory and his wife Max. They escaped the Forgetting by hiding in a hotel in the woods outside Arlington, Virginia, and putting into place a set of protective rules. Now Max has lost her shadow. Ory has given her a tape recorder for her to record her memories and tell her story as a way for her to remember who she is and who Ory is. Then Ory leaves to scavenge for food in the city and Max leaves to keep Ory safe. Ory returns and begins his search for her. 

The narrative follows Max, Ory and several other characters. Everyone heads to the south where they have all heard rumors about someone called, among other names,  "The One Who Gathers"  in New Orleans who may have a cure for the Forgetting.

The Book of M is an exceptional captivating and compelling novel that held my undivided attention from start to finish. The writing is incredible; it is hard to believe this is a debut novel. The concept that our shadows hold our memories paired with the importance of our memories on who we are, what we do, and how we relate to others and the world, becomes insightful and mind-bending in the narrative. Adding to the complex, absorbing plot are the dynamic characters Shepherd has created and placed in this changed world. The ending was surprising, nothing I would have predicted, yet it works in this intricate, ingenious novel.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of HarperCollins Publishers.

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