The Tricks the Mind Can Play
It’s been said that the mind can often play tricks on us, and those tricks of memory have been featured in some recent novels that are sure to contribute to an interesting discussion for book groups. Memory issues are hot right now and a psychological thriller might be a welcome change of pace for your club.
Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson is a fascinating novel that focuses on memory. If our memories define us, then what would happen if every day you woke up without any memory of anything? This is the story of Christine Lucas, who as a result of an accident, has been left with an unusual form of amnesia. Each night as she sleeps, her memory is erased and each day her husband Ben has to help recreate her life for her. Christine starts to keep a journal to help her remember, but begins to suspect that those around her are not telling her the whole truth about her past. Mr. Watson’s debut novel presents thoughtful questions about memory and identity. This is not only a page turner, but a literary thriller with interesting characters and a well-constructed plot.
In Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante, the main protagonist, Dr. Jennifer White, is suspected of killing her best friend and neighbor, Amanda. Dr. White is retired and suffering from dementia and as the investigation proceeds we see how the suspect can at times be brilliant, yet just as often be disconnected from reality. This unusual story is part mystery, part thriller and a literary page turner as well. Alice LaPlante is a creative writing teacher at Stanford and has written four non-fiction books, but this is her first novel.
If you think a psychological thriller might be too intense for your group,What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarity is a good choice for a somewhat lighter look at memory and amnesia. After an accidental fall, 29 year old Alice wakes up to find that she’s actually 39 years old and a mother of three who is about to be divorced! With no memory of the last 10 years of her life, Alice has to piece together what has happened to her life. This is a fun and quirky look at amnesia but will still leave book groups with much to discuss and lots of “what if…” questions to think about.
Memory loss and amnesia may be the result of aging, injury or a medical condition. This is a troubling condition that many people are forced to deal with, but these authors have constructed some fascinating novels that present the issue in unusual situations.