Our memories create the reality of our world. They are our cornerstones of our truth that we touch back upon as we grow and shape ourselves into the people we are. So, what happens when memories disappear? The Book of M by Peng Shepherd is a masterpiece and it’s a necessary book to add to your collection. It’s set in a post-apocalyptic world that feels so real, you could step outside after looking up from a page and believe you’ve entered it.
The story begins with a man, Hemu Joshi from India, who loses his shadow. With the loss of his shadow, his memories disappear. Shortly after he loses his shadow, the entire world begins experiencing this phenomenon. This catastrophic event shuts down the world’s ability to function and everything is thrown into chaos. There is a large fantastical element to this book that I desperately want to talk about, but that’s part of the magic of discovery in The Book of M that readers need to experience firsthand. The story is told in alternating points of view. First, the doomed lovers, Ory and his wife Max. Max loses her shadow and Ory gives her a tape recorder so that she can record important information and memories. She leaves Ory because she doesn’t want him to see her forget who she is and put him in danger once she forgets who he is. Max’s narrative is one of my favorite things about this book because the reader cannot trust her as a reliable narrator as she slowly loses all her memories, so the only thing we have to go off of is this verbal dialogue she has with herself on the tape recorder. Max meets up with a group of shadowless making their way across the US in the hopes of finding a rumored cure in New Orleans. Ory’s story follows his desperate search for Max, who he believes went to their home in DC. There he encounters Naz Ahmadi, a woman who has joined a group of resistance fighters against the shadowless. The group also has encountered rumors of The One Who Gathers, a person that may have the cure for the shadowless and they convince Ory to join them in their journey. The last alternating story arc is that of The One Who Gathers, the mysterious amnesiac who is attempting to find a cure for the shadowless.
The Book of M is a wonderful adventure for many different genre readers and one that will never cease to surprise in its originality and, ultimately, its heart. It’s a story that will sit on your soul and ease into your bones in the best kind of heartbreaking and hopeful way. The Book of M is truly devastating in its beauty and scope of love and friendship, and the truth of reality and how it can be broken apart and rebuilt into something magical. I’ve never come across a story quite like it before and I’m thrilled it exists.
— Jessica Lepore, inventory manager