This review contains spoilers for the novel “Remind Me Again What Happened.”
Joanna Luloff crafts a captivating story in “Remind Me Again What Happened,” which explores the relationship between three friends who must unite in sight of trial, but their past secrets and anger jeopardize that needed support. This slow drama focusing on self-discovery and trust introduces probing questions of the importance of memories in shaping our identity. Instead of constant action, Luloff examines a mental struggle in the minds of each character and therefore pulls the reader into the emotional turmoil.
Claire Scott wakes up in a Florida hospital, confused and with years missing from her past. Despite years of ambitious journalism projects abroad, Claire finally succumbs to a halt at the bite of a single mosquito. She overcomes the odds of death from the Japanese encephalitis, but instead suffers seizures that disrupt her brain’s memory storage and consequently erases years from her past.
On the other side looking in, Charlie pities his wife’s battle but still holds resentment for all those years that she did not bother to come home between assignments. Now that she has no choice but to stay, he struggles to accept her shameless return to their Vermont home. Claire cannot even remember why Charlie never joined her on her travels and therefore is lost at the cause of his anger. In addition to that stored bitterness, he fails to see the woman he married who thrived on adventure and control, and now takes on the leadership role over Claire, who must nap and remain under minimal stress. Doubting Claire’s splotchy memory, Charlie impatiently snaps at Claire’s questions about the past, knowing that he cannot create memories for her.
Immediately flying in from Boston, Rachel steps in to support both of them and the three friends are back to life under the same roof, just as they were during graduate school. Rachel attempts to bring the peace but is taken aback by Claire’s lack of a past. By living with Charlie again, Rachel reignites her love for him, but still holds resentment for his past betrayal. Their reunion is challenged by Claire’s changing personality, Charlie’s impatience and Rachel’s soreness from them moving away as a married couple years ago. Moments of tenderness between the friends remind them of their past interlocked lives, but rising hostility exposes their changed lives that pull them in different directions. While Claire tries to find herself and return to her passion for journalism, Rachel and Charlie must work out their suppressed feelings of affection and irritation behind the back of their lost friend.
This novel of conflicting uncertainty, anger and love investigates the importance of life in the present with a view of the past and whether one can move on without confronting the brokenness of the past. Instead of the action or romance laced into typical novels, Luloff tests these friends to watch them break or unify under the pressure of Claire’s disease. Although not incredibly relatable, “Remind Me Again What Happened” involves the reader with underlying secrets, making us turn the page to see which ones come to the surface and endanger the relationship. Readers interested in the internal conflict of mixed emotions must explore the struggles of Claire, Charlie and Rachel in Luloff’s first novel in order to find new value in the power of memories and the importance of healing from the past.
Listen to Joanna Luloff speak about “Remind Me Again What Happened” for free at Skylark Bookshop on Oct. 25 at 7 p.m.
Edited by Siena DeBolt | firstname.lastname@example.org