The Book of M by Peng Shepherd

The Book of MThe Book of M by Peng Shepherd

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A man loses his shadow in a market place in India and the world watches with bated breath at what will happen next. Excitement abounds as news crews monitor his every move just waiting for the next big surprise. But when the man doesn’t remember his own family, the world panics. What is the meaning of the lost shadow? Why can’t he remember those closest to him?
Fast forward two years, and ‘the forgetting’ is now a worldwide epidemic. Nowhere is safe. Max and Ory have taken refuge in an abandoned hotel, and it has been fine up until the day that Max loses her shadow. What will become of her now? Is she destined to forget the man that she loves?
What follows is an epic journey across a changed world that is no longer recognisable to those who remember what it used to be like. Danger lies around every corner but after Max disappears, Ory has no choice but to try and follow in her footsteps, he needs to save her, there must be a way. A heartbreaking, exhilarating tale of love, loss and persisting against all odds.

Wow. Wow wow wow wow wow. I had seen this book and found the premise incredibly intriguing, then when it came highly recommended from a bookish friend over at close encounters of the paper kind, I figured I just HAD to get onto it. I actually received this for Christmas but have been a bit lax in my physical book readings (I have a lot of ebooks to get through). So when I finally picked it up to start, I was beyond excited. The story starts out incredibly strong and drags you in from the word go, the timeline is a little bit all over the place at times, as I expected for the story to start with the man in India, however, the story starts with Max and Ory and it appears to be around 2 years since the first incident happened. It can be a little confusing at first, but the time jumps soon blend into the story quite well, I found that after a little bit of getting used to, I had no issues discerning where I was in the timeline of events. I would put this book in the dystopian, post apocalyptic category, though it’s more than just the general meaning of these genres. I feel like labelling it as a genre really doesn’t do the story justice, just know that it is a beautiful story with compelling characters, written with a magical flow that makes reading it a pleasure.

The characters are incredibly well written, we are given sufficient backstory without it feeling like an info dump or like reading someone’s profile. We learn more about our characters as they travel through this ever changing landscape, and it’s just brilliant. The story is told through four alternating POV’s, we have Max who’s journey is written as a recording, Ory who is trying to follow Max’s footsteps after she disappeared on him, Naz – an immigrant woman from Tehran who is in the US alone, and a man who has retrograde amnesia from an accident. The alternating points of view were well done and flawless in their execution, I didn’t feel jolted out of the story at all through the changes and I felt that I was as invested in each person’s story as the next, I would finish one person’s chapter and be put into another and felt torn, I wanted to know what happened next to the person I just finished but I also needed to know what was going to happen to the current person as well I JUST NEEDED TO KNOW EVERYTHING AT ONCE AND PLEASE JUST TELL ME NOW!!!!!!!!!

The way that the world was built was amazing, I cannot pick one flaw with this, I felt what the characters were feeling, I felt terrified, unsure, scared – what would happen if my shadow disappeared? This also raised questions in my mind as I likened the disappearing of the shadows and memories to Alzheimer patients. They slowly lose their memories until they forget to breathe, forget to eat, forget the most basic of survival instincts. So I asked myself, who is the memory loss more terrifying for? The person who is losing the memories, who can’t even remember that they’ve forgotten something? Or the person who cares about them? It made me feel that while we see memory loss as an absolutely awful thing, if the person forgetting doesn’t realise they’ve forgotten, are they really sad and scared about it? Or do they find themselves in a peaceful state? Almost like a state of dreaming? I’ve always thought that it would be absolutely terrifying to lose memories, but maybe it’s not as terrifying as I first thought? That’s not to say that I WANT to forget things, but maybe it’s worse for those who can remember that you’ve forgotten something in the first place as they have knowledge of the forgotten thing and you don’t. Sorry, I’m rambling haha.

This story really made me feel a tidal wave of emotions, while I didn’t cry in it, it was heart wrenching at times. With a couple of revelations that happen throughout the story, I felt heart sick for the characters affected, I really did. I felt terrified at the strange place the world had become, I felt isolated and alone like Ory and Naz, and I felt wonder as well. I think I honestly felt the most for Max, ‘listening’ to her recordings was a brilliant way to write a character’s slow descent into the forgetting. We were with her from when she lost her shadow, and followed her through her journey and it was beautiful and bittersweet, it really was.

I’m still feeling a bit emotional about the ending, once you get there, you’ll know what I’m talking about, but I also feel a teeny bit hopeful as well, but I mostly just feel like my still beating heart has been ripped from my chest and thrown into a bucket of ice water. I tell you what, the phrase
Blue; Fifty-Two
will forever hold a much deeper meaning than anyone who has not read this story will realise.

Let me ask you, What would you be willing to give up, in order to remember?

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