The Book of M
by Peng Shepherd
Set in a dangerous near future world, The Book of M tells the captivating story of a group of ordinary people caught in an extraordinary catastrophe who risk everything to save the ones they love. It is a sweeping debut that illuminates the power that memories have not only on the heart, but on the world itself.
One afternoon at an outdoor market in India, a man’s shadow disappears—an occurrence science cannot explain. He is only the first. The phenomenon spreads like a plague, and while those afflicted gain a strange new power, it comes at a horrible price: the loss of all their memories.
Ory and his wife Max have escaped the Forgetting so far by hiding in an abandoned hotel deep in the woods. Their new life feels almost normal, until one day Max’s shadow disappears too.
Knowing that the more she forgets, the more dangerous she will become to Ory, Max runs away. But Ory refuses to give up the time they have left together. Desperate to find Max before her memory disappears completely, he follows her trail across a perilous, unrecognizable world, braving the threat of roaming bandits, the call to a new war being waged on the ruins of the capital, and the rise of a sinister cult that worships the shadowless.
As they journey, each searches for answers: for Ory, about love, about survival, about hope; and for Max, about a new force growing in the south that may hold the cure.
I was kindly given an e-ARC of the book by NetGalley in return for an honest review.
When I had requested this book on NetGalley, I had a rough idea as to what it contained. I thought, you know, a maybe post apocalypse world and people forget their memories in this one. It sounded intriguing, people just randomly losing their memories soon after they lose their shadows? Why wouldn’t it sound interesting? I thought, well, this could be entertaining.
Peng Shepherd changed my idea of what a post apocalyptic genre should be, her writing is so vivid and gripping that I literally could put down the book. I really loved that there are different povs, different symbols for each of them and you can really see the desperation and love and the very humane wish to still be alive after losing their shadow. The really good thing about the book? Can I pick one? I doubt it but let’s say, one of the best things about the book was its pace, it never really lagged. There was always something happening and all the action had some meaning, some hidden plot that would unfold later.
The main characters, Max and Ory, they broke my heart, they truly did. Their love and and devotion towards each other shone throughout the story. Max and Ory have been married for a while when the story starts, they have been hiding in the woods for almost two years without losing their shadows. This blessing doesn’t last long, one day, Max’s shadow is gone and Ory desperately tries to prepare them both for the eventual loss of Max’s memories. This section was fraught with heartbreak, terror and love, Ory forces Max to follow some basic rules and they work for a while.
There comes a day when they are finally separated. They each go through their own journeys and reading it makes everything feel very, very real. As they both travel through a vastly different America than the one we know of, they meet with many secondary characters who have voices of their own and whose personalities shine through without overwhelming us.
It’s almost like music, this book. It starts out slow and quietly, slowly building up it’s pace and near the end, it is frankly phenomenal. I know, I would be hard pressed to be find a book like this one in the same vein. This book seriously makes us wonder if this really is a debut novel, the sheer control with which Shepherd writes, the way she wrapped up lose points and the ending itself. Goodness. There were a few moments when I genuinely cried because I was just moved so. This will remain in my heart for a long, long while and once I start losing my memories of it, I will re-read it again, just to feel all this again.