Looking for a book to tote along to your next camping or backcountry adventure? Consider Joanna Luloff’s new novel Remind Me Again What Happened. The University of Colorado assistant professor of English known for her short story collection, The Beach at Galle Road, pulls from her own experiences to bring us this new enthralling read.
Though a novel with imaginary characters, Remind Me Again What Happened was inspired by Luloff’s own experiences. Her mother lost much of her memory due to an illness and, in the midst of the disease, said she felt like she had “to borrow memories from other people” in order to remember her own. This comment haunted Luloff and inspired the forthcoming novel that would delve into memories, identity, and the human experience. Remind Me Again What Happened opens with protagonist Claire in Vermont, in a room full of boxes—each like a corner of her mind, containing photos and mementos of times in her life. We learn that Claire worked as a journalist and while traveling on assignment in India, she contracted Japanese Encephalitis from a mosquito bite. The potentially fatal disease does damage to the nervous system, causing patients with it to lose their memory and suffer from seizures. Claire’s memory has deteriorated because of it.
Readers move through the fragments of Claire’s story with her, from the vivid childhood memory she reminisces about through the first few pages of the novel, to her anger and blame towards Charlie (her husband) for leaving her in India. We empathize with Claire, imagining what it would be like to lose our own memory and feeling angry with her towards Charlie.
However, the second chapter gives us a glimpse into Charlie’s perspective—his memory of the happenings leading up to Claire’s illness. There are secrets that are alluded to throughout Charlie’s narrative– Claire’s hurt him in some way—but we don’t yet know how. And we quickly start wondering which perspective tells the true story? The third chapter takes us into Claire’s best friend Rachel’s perspective, and she too begins to hint at mysteries that we have to piece together as readers alongside our protagonist. Questions bubble up as we read and wonder: What’s happened to Claire and Charlie’s marriage? Claire and Rachel’s friendship? How are the three characters connected? And why do things seem to feel so off and unsettled?
Luloff has an uncanny ability to alternate point of view and give her readers just enough information with each chapter to keep them on their toes, wanting to know the story behind these puzzle pieces of memories gifted throughout each chapter. Her use of photos scattered throughout the novel gives the book a nonfiction element that pulls on the story’s theme of truth: What is it? How does memory inform it? How does point of view bend the truth? Ultimately, the novel hooks readers from the start. It’s a page-turner filled with depth, secrecy, and thrill that’ll have you questioning your own concept of truth and reality.
Head to Tattered Cover LoDo to pick up a copy of Remind Me Again What Happened and celebrate its release party at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, June 26th.