By Heather Pisani-Kristl | La Mesa Reads
Although real-life examples of amnesia are rare, sudden memory loss is a remarkably effective driver of plot in fiction and film. It’s terrifying to think of waking up after an accident, traumatic event, or illness, without a memory of who you are or what you’ve done. You might have no ability to recall the skills and career you’ve built over the years, or the partners and friends with whom you’ve formed relationships. In the world of amnesiac fiction, you might even be in mortal danger. Here are some unforgettable memory-loss novels available through the La Mesa Library:
‘Before I Go to Sleep’ by S.J. Watson – Christine Lucas writes a daily journal entry so that tomorrow she will remember what happened to her yesterday. She seems to have a stable marriage to a man named Ben, who supplies her with memories, but occasionally she has glimpses of another life that can’t be explained by Ben and her therapist. These flashes of memory call into question the story recorded in Christine’s journal and the foundation upon which her life is built. British novelist and NHS audiologist Watson was inspired by the case of Henry Molaison, an American amnesiac detailed in the non-fiction book “Patient H.M.: A story of memory, madness and family secrets” by Luke Dittrich (available in e-book format).
‘Remind Me Again What Happened’ by Joanna Luloff – Unlike Christine Lucas, journalist Claire Scott remembers time going forward, but nothing before the age of 34, when she wakes up from a medically-induced coma. The years from 17 to 34 are a blank that can only be filled by her husband Charlie and college friend Rachel – who display resentful attitudes invisible to Claire. Who was the adult Claire before she became ill, and what happened between her and the people she loves? This new novel has just been released to the library and is gathering requests from customers.
The Jason Bourne novels by Robert Ludlum and Eric Van Lustbader – Ludlum introduced us to fiction’s most popular amnesiac, a CIA agent with a concussion, in the thriller “The Bourne Identity.” It didn’t take long for Bourne to recover his identity, but his adventures evading corrupt Politburo members, fighting in Syria, and contesting charges of treason continue for 15 novels. Jason Bourne is still chasing Russians in “The Bourne Nemesis,” which is scheduled to be released later in 2018.
‘What Alice Forgot’ by Liane Moriarty – Slim and fabulous Alice Love falls off her bike at spin class, causing her to forget that she’s almost 40 and fighting for custody of her three kids with her soon-to-be ex-husband. Newlywed bliss and first-baby excitement are still real in Alice’s mind, and she wonders if it’s too late to resurrect that love again. Australian novelist Moriarty, the author of “The Husband’s Secret” and “Big Little Lies,” delivers an unflinching story about making amends and starting over.
Second Saturday performances
Second Saturdays at the library will sound sweeter starting Sept. 8, when our local music performances start again. The Music Masters, a distinguished men’s barbershop chorus, will kick off the monthly series at 1 p.m. at the Sept. 8 show. These free concerts are sponsored by the Friends of La Mesa Library. To support the Friends or find out more about their mission, visit the library’s bookstore daily between 1 and 4 p.m. or find the Friends online at lamesalibrary.org.
—Heather Pisani-Kristl is managing librarian of the La Mesa branch of the San Diego County Library. Call the library at 619-469-2151, visit in person at 8074 Allison Ave., or get information online at sdcl.org.