The Book of M
By: Peng Shepherd
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase
One afternoon at an outdoor market in India, a man’s shadow disappears–an occurrence science cannot explain. He is only the first. The phenomenon spreads like a plague, and while those afflicted gain a strange new power, it comes at a horrible price: the loss of all their memories.
Ory and his wife Max have escaped the Forgetting so far by hiding in an abandoned hotel deep in the woods. Their new life feels almost normal, until one day Max’s shadow disappears too.
Knowing that the more she forgets, the more dangerous she will become to Ory, Max runs away. But Ory refuses to give up the time they have left together. Desperate to find Max before her memory disappears completely, he follows her trail across a perilous, unrecognizable world, braving the threat of roaming bandits, the call to a new war being waged on the ruins of the capital, and the rise of a sinister cult that worships the shadowless.
As they journey, each searches for answers: for Ory, about love, about survival, about hope; and for Max, about a new force growing in the south that may hold the cure.
Like The Passage and Station Eleven, this haunting, thought-provoking, and beautiful novel explores fundamental questions of memory, connection, and what it means to be human in a world turned upside down.
The premise caught my attention and admittedly it sat on my to-read queue for quite a long while. While I did pick it up when I did, I was wondering if now was a good time to read it given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic; last thing I wanted to read was about a pandemic sweeping across the globe and giving rise to a post-apocalyptic, each-man-for-himself sort of world. Oh, and the Forgetting reminded me of Alzheimer’s which I encounter regularly with my job so yeah, I’m in for a trip.
Before I start, this book not only reminds me of The Passage and Station Eleven but also of Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant because this novel focuses on the central couple and their journey as well as the aspect of memory.
Anyway, this book was harrowing to read. I think the current times have added a sense of urgency and fear to the story, racing to find each other, racing to find some sort of cure to the Forgetting, racing to avoid the dangers along the way. The breakdown of society, the earlier storyline of scientists trying to figure out what was going on, the fight for survival…I’m surprised I was able to read this at night lol, there’s a lot going against Ory and Max.
And really I read this book because of Ory and Max. It’s a race against time and in treasuring what they had despite faced with the Forgetting and the dangers in their present world. It’s heartbreaking reading Max’s segments and fighting to remember Ory while Ory is struggling to reach her.
Admittedly the book kind of lost me in the last third. The situation is already a difficult one that it’s hard to conceive what kind of ending or resolution could be found for the Forgetting. I’m not sure I’m entirely on board with what happened, but given the premise itself, I guess that’s a natural conclusion. And the ending just broke my heart in a way, really, after everything Max and Ory went through. Which honestly I wasn’t expecting any other way given the premise.
Overall I liked The Book of M and perhaps would have liked it even more had I not read it on a pandemic year, but anyway. Definitely worth checking out if you enjoyed Station Eleven, The Passage, and The Buried Giant.