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Elsie is not a real person. From the moment she came to exist, she has been told this repeatedly. She is merely the physical embodiment of an unwanted memory extracted from another woman, a real woman, whose face she sees every time she looks in a mirror. Except that she remembers a life she didn’t live, loves people she never met, thinks her own thoughts, and feels her own feelings. So what makes a real person….real? Exquisite and haunting, Mem has stayed with me.
June 2018 Indie Next List
“Adding fictional scientific breakthroughs to a glittering era of history is a setup for a great plot, but it takes an artist’s hand to carry it beyond its initial gimmick. Bethany C. Morrow’s examination of memory, desire, and what makes us human flourishes in its alternative historical setting. Her writing is as well-paced as her plot, in which the Mems develop beyond their creator’s intentions and the most evolved of them suffers at our least-evolved hands. Morrow’s novel has a beauty to it that underlines its critical depth and heart-racing conclusion.”
— Hannah Oliver Depp, WORD, Brooklyn, NY
Summer 2019 Reading Group Indie Next List
“Step into this alternate history where technology is created to remove unwanted memories and place them in vessels—that happen to look just like you! These ‘Mems’ are human snapshots, usually limited to existing inside the memory that created them. However, this story follows a Mem that is different. Although she never ages or physically changes, she retains identity, learns, grows, and develops relationships. This leads to the exploration of concepts of life, individuality, freedom, and civil rights. What makes us...us? Why is this memory different, and what did its loss cost the original owner?”
— Megan Irland, The River's End Bookstore, Oswego, NY
Buzzfeed's #1 Book to Read this Spring
A Best Book of the Month at The Washington Post, Bustle, and Chicago Review of Books
MEM is a rare novel, a small book carrying very big ideas, the kind of story that stays with you long after you've finished reading it.
Set in the glittering art deco world of a century ago, MEM makes one slight alteration to history: a scientist in Montreal discovers a method allowing people to have their memories extracted from their minds, whole and complete. The Mems exist as mirror-images of their source -- zombie-like creatures destined to experience that singular memory over and over, until they expire in the cavernous Vault where they are kept.
And then there is Dolores Extract #1, the first Mem capable of creating her own memories. An ageless beauty shrouded in mystery, she is allowed to live on her own, and create her own existence, until one day she is summoned back to the Vault. What happens next is a gorgeously rendered, heart-breaking novel in the vein of Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go. Debut novelist Bethany Morrow has created an allegory for our own time, exploring profound questions of ownership, and how they relate to identity, memory and history, all in the shadows of Montreal's now forgotten slave trade.