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Remind Me Again What Happened by Joanna Luloff

BOTTOM LINE: Not for me

Genre: Fiction
Publication Date: 26 June 2018
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

Synopsis from the Publisher:

“Claire wakes in a hospital room in the Florida Keys. She has no idea how she got there or why. The loss of so many memories is paralyzing. Some things she can piece together by looking at old photos saved by her husband, Charlie, and her best friend, Rachel, and by combing through boxes of letters and casual jottings. But she senses a mystery at the center of all these fragments of her past, a feeling that something is not complete. Is Charlie still her husband? Is Rachel still her friend?

Told from alternating points of view that pull the reader into the minds of the three characters, the story unfolds as the smudge that covers Claire’s memory is gradually, steadily wiped away, until finally she can understand the why and the how of her life. And then maybe she and Charlie and Rachel can move forward, but with their lives forever changed.

In Remind Me Again What Happened, debut novelist Joanna Luloff has written a moving and beautifully nuanced story of transience, the ebb and flow of time, and how relationships shift and are reconfigured by each day, hour, and minute.”

My Thoughts: I really enjoy the amnesia stories that are so popular these days. Much in the same way I enjoy books that revolve around sociopaths, characters with memory loss allow me to experience a different viewpoint without experiencing a massive accident or illness. They confirm how much our memories complete our personalities and reiterate how deceiving outwardly appearances are without the backstory. So I always open these types of novels expecting secrets and other little twists that will shock the main character (and the reader) into understanding that his (or her) life was not quite how others presented it. Unfortunately, in Remind Me Again What Happened, the story is less about the past and the secrets and more about moving into the future. I am less of a fan of this type of amnesiac story.

For one thing, Remind Me Again What Happened is not a thriller. There is no one deliberately keeping secrets from Claire, manipulating the past to force a different present. There is no danger; there is no toxic relationship about which Claire is oblivious. Charlie loves her. Rachel loves her. She remembers them both from when they were in college. They are open with her about her job and her missing past, providing her with all of her notes and photographs; it helps that she was a journalist and therefore kept copious notes that could help her fill in the gaps. Yes, the group dynamic may be different than it was twenty years ago, but the raw emotions are still there and continue to connect one to the other.

Another aspect of the story which makes it different from other amnesiac stories is the fact that we get three different viewpoints of Claire’s past and present. We see how things used to be in college and later as a married couple through Charlie’s and Rachel’s memories. We see how much of a struggle it is to remain patient with someone with almost no short-term memory and a twenty-year gap in memories. We see the strain this causes on all of them, including Claire. The lack of one-sidedness to the story helps flesh out the characters and adds depth to the story itself.

While Remind Me Again What Happened is a lovely story about relationships and how they change over time, it is not my preferred type of story. I want more drama. I want tension and conflict and all of the messy highs and lows of emotions. Instead, Remind Me Again What Happened is placid. The emotions are muted, and there is no real tension to give you that urge to keep reading. The characters interact as if everyone is walking on eggshells, and no one wants to be the person to break one. For the right reader, there is plenty to enjoy. Ms. Luloff’s writing is very pretty as well as being effective, and all three characters have a depth to them that avoids them falling into the caricature trap. Remind Me Again What Happened might not be what I wanted in an amnesia-based novel, but I can still appreciate how others would find a lot to love within its pages.

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