A woman’s amnesia strains her relationships with her husband and her best friend.
Married couple Claire and Charlie and their dearest friend, Rachel, have a long, complicated history and a friendship so close it's more like family. Rachel and Charlie met in a modernist poetry seminar when she was studying abroad in England. They had a shy but loving romance of their own, and he moved with her to Boston to go to graduate school, where together they met Claire. When Rachel’s parents died in a car accident, first Claire and then Charlie moved into her childhood home and took care of her through her intense grief. Claire has been leading the trio through their lives ever since. When Rachel became pregnant and decided against keeping it and against telling Charlie, Claire helped her through. When Rachel, in her sadness about this choice, turned away from Charlie, Claire took her place as his romantic partner. When Charlie got a job in Vermont, Claire moved with him, convincing them both that it would work. But now it's Claire who needs to be led. A traveling journalist working on a story in India, she has been away from Vermont and from Charlie for some time, literally and emotionally, when she's bitten by a mosquito and contracts Japanese encephalitis, leading to seizures and brain damage: “There is a smudge where [her] memories are supposed to be.” She is unstable, unwell, unable to remember her life from her late teens through her most recent writing assignments, knowing only that she awoke alone in a hospital in Florida. Occasionally a floating memory comes forth—of a moment in the shared kitchen of their youth or, more recently, of a mysterious photographer named Michael—but mostly Claire is at a loss. She hates it, a normally independent and fearless woman trapped by her health—and her husband hates it, too, as the dynamics of their relationship lurch dramatically away from the usual. Over the course of the novel, told through the friends' three alternating points of view, shared and unshared memories are revealed as Charlie and Rachel care for Claire and as Claire works to put it all back together. Each has secrets, and secreted resentments, of which Luloff’s (The Beach at Galle Road, 2012) slow unearthing is fascinating and thorough.
A novel of sonorous character study, showing both the limits and allure of truly knowing another person—and oneself.