Mem book cover

Book Shout: Mem by Bethany C. Morrow

I’m not a reviewer but sometimes I just want to give a shout out to a book that struck me in a good way. Mem is set in an alternate 1920s Montreal where terrible (mostly) memories can be extracted from a person. But that memory becomes a living ‘clone,’ a Mem. This is the setup for a thought experiment novel. It’s short and delves into what it might mean to be a Mem. I’m not a fan of novels or even short stories as thought experiments. They usually lack deep characters and an emotional connection to the reader because they are so focused on the quandary posed.

But Mem is different. Elsie, aka Dolores Extract Number One, is different. Most Mems live short, tormented lives stuck in a single, terrible memory. But Elsie can acquire her own memories, and she lives longer than other Mems. Is she perhaps more real than Dolores? In the end, I came to view Elsie as the Dolores that might have been if she had kept her tragic memory and came to terms with it. What does it mean to suppress memories, or to erase the memories that make us who we are? These questions are explored through a very determined and emotionally deep character, who isn’t technically even a person.

There are other questions posed about ownership of Mems (or clones) and what it means to terminate or reuse them. I go back to a piece of writing advice that says a novel (or a story) is about connecting and disconnecting. Mem shows us people connecting and disconnecting in powerful, though sometimes subtle ways. Highly recommended.

What have you read lately that grabbed you?