This book left me thinking about loneliness, being alone, and survival.
Adam wakes up in some sand surrounded by cement, with a head injury and no idea who he is, where he is, or what’s happened to civilization. He finds a strange key in his shoe and a bottle of pain relievers in his pocket.
Assuming the world has ended somehow and that he’d been attacked by someone, he begins to figure out how to survive until he can remember things. He finds a few tools in the flotsam of the dried up river and a faucet with running water. After a short time he also finds someone’s shelter under a bridge. Inside the shelter is a camping stove, matches, and some canned food.
Anything that brings memory back is pushed away. Can labels are removed and he pulls himself out of memory as quickly as possible. He knows that whatever is lurking in his head is bad and he’s just not ready to face it yet.
While surviving, he encounters a young boy, Clay, who becomes a sort of friend while Adam tries to navigate this new world.
What got me was how Adam was alone and nobody seemed to be looking for him. He had no phone and no thoughts of one, except that they were things people had Before. Before what? The reader isn’t told until near the end.
Everything is explained, slowly, in little bits, in a way that satisfied my curiosity.
This novel made me think of our online world and how if we simply stop posting something, we just disappear. If we have no contacts in real life, our disappearance is barely noted. Some may wonder where we are or what happened, but our attention is quickly taken away by some other tidbit of information swirling around us.
It also made me think of how alone we are even when surrounded by people. Sometimes an event will shatter our world and even though we’re reeling, others are carrying on with the mundanity of life.
This book was fantastic, multi-layered, and engrossing. I’m honestly not sure where to begin.
The plot: People are losing their shadows. Without warning and without prejudice, the shadow just detaches and vanishes. When someone’s shadow is lost, they can do magic.
They can re-route roads, create walls of water, put wings on antlers, or make entire areas disappear. But there’s a cost: the loss of memories. The pull of magic is almost too much to resist, so the person will eventually forget what food or water is and perish.
While the book is told from four character’s perspectives, two stood out to me.
The first was Max. She loses her shadow two years after the phenomenon begins and decides to leave her husband, Ory, and the safety of the abandoned hotel they’d been holing up in. She takes her tape recorder with her and dictates her memories. While travelling she meets up with others who are heading to New Orleans, where they’d heard there might be help for the shadowless.
The author did a fantastic job of writing the slow loss of Max’s memory. At first Max doesn’t seem to be forgetting anything, but once her memories are noticeably failing, they degrade rapidly.
The second was The Amnesiac. This is a character who, just before The Forgetting incident, was in a car accident and lost all his memories. Diagnosed with complete retrograde amnesia, he recalls how to speak, what to eat, and whatnot but has no personal memories. While he’s told he loved sailing, it was just data to him, not something where he could feel the salt spray on his face.
He works with a doctor and the very first person to lose their shadow. As The Forgetting progresses, The Amnesiac tries to continue the doctor’s work of searching for a way to re-attach shadows to people. These new shadows don’t hold the memories of the person, though. A shadow of a rock will make a person comatose. A shadow of a book will give false memories.
The Amnesiac is able to use the dictation to create a new shadow, but does that shadow belong where it’s stitched? The author had me guessing right up until the reveal, which was fantastic.
I want to read this again, just to see if I can pick up the clues of the ending sooner. Also because the author’s rich worldbuilding had me engrossed from the first page to the last. Excellent book, and I’m eager to read more by this author.