THE MEMORY PAINTER by Gwendolyn Womack


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Four scientists receive a grant to study memory in the hope of finding a cure for Alzheimer’s and make the discovery of a lifetime—or lifetimes.

Womack's debut novel has many beginnings, but the crux of the story starts in 1982, when a research team led by Michael Backer develops an Alzheimer’s drug called Renovo that produces startling results. Michael, amazed by what his patients can now remember, begins to wonder what the drug might do for a healthy mind—and the story races off at an ever intensifying rate from there, building layer upon layer. Choices made in 1982 have ramifications in the present, and all comes to a head when Bryan Pierce, an artist who paints the extremely lifelike dreams he suffers from, meets Linz Jacobs, a brilliant scientist also troubled by a childhood dream, and is instantly drawn to her. More than that, he remembers her. But the recognition goes far beyond this life. As Bryan and Linz deepen their connection, it becomes clear their dreams are more akin to “remember[ing] an entire life”: they’ve fallen in love in ancient Egypt and ancient Rome; lived as Vikings and musicians and poets. But how does this connect to Renovo? And how can “the human psyche…process such information?” At times, the complex plot, which covers thousands of years of history when all is said and done, seems to rely on coincidence and circumstance to propel itself toward a conclusion; readers will just have to try their best to ignore this. Womack makes a romantic case for the existence of destiny, though, and does a beautiful job—especially in the slower-paced “recall” passages—of building emotional depth that can be achieved only by lovers unbound by time.

Dive into this sweeping, romantic journey that will leave you breathless and a little unsure of where in time you’ve landed.

Pub Date: April 28th, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-250-05303-9
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Picador
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 2015


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