Tell Me an Ending by Jo Harkin

Tell Me An Ending is a novel about erasing memories, getting them back, and what memory means for grief and identity. Memory clinic Nepenthe has been deleting specific memories for clients for a while now, for clients both knowing and who forget even having the procedure done. Suddenly, these unknowing clients are getting emails saying they are entitled to reinstate a memory they had deleted if they want. The novel follows Mei, William, Oscar, and Finn, all affected by memory deletion, and Noor, who works at the clinic, as they explore their own pasts and the reality of Nepenthe.

The concept of this book is fairly similar to other stories—it in fact references the film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind quite a bit—but it explores different circumstances, especially traumatic ones, and the reasons behind people keeping or deleting memories. The chapters move between different characters, with a lot of focus on Noor who works at the clinic and is trying to work out what her boss has been up to, whilst dealing with a heartbreak that is intricately tied up with her job. The Nepenthe side of things, as found out through Noor, is fairly interesting, but quite straightforward, with unsurprising twists. The other characters, who we see trying to deal with their current lives and also decide if they want their memory back, allow the novel to cover other ground, particularly around what people do with traumatic memories, or different kinds of memories that might impact our lives.

The book is quite long and can be slow at times, though also some of the characters you wish you could delve a bit more into, as a lot of the book is taken up with what they are doing. In particular, Oscar and William’s stories both pose interesting questions about trauma and memory, whereas Mei’s narrative is more around parental influence and what kind of troubles actually need deleting, or actually need other kinds of support and autonomy. The other story, with Finn and his wife, was a bit slow and didn’t really go anywhere, not quite exploring enough at the end to counterbalance with the other characters.

A near-future dystopia that focuses particularly on the importance of memories, but also considers if deleting various kinds of memories is actually the best option, Tell Me An Ending is an enjoyable read, though it did drag a bit for me.