Thanks to the lovely Jeanne McDermott, I had the wonderful pleasure of spending quite a few hours yesterday in transit from Charleston to NYC reading the latest book from Gabrielle Zevin, author of ELSEWHERE. MEMOIRS OF A TEENAGE AMNESIAC reminds me of the powerful talent of this author. Naomi takes a header off the school stairs, hitting her head hard enough to apparently dislodge the last several years of her life. She does not remember Ace, her boyfriend, or Will, her best friend and co-editor of the school yearbook. One of the biggest memory gaps is about her parents' divorce. Gradually, Naomi must reenter this strange life and navigate her way through the tunnels of her darkened memory. It is a journey fraught with perils. Memories, though, can be just as treacherous as she learns from the young man who rescued her after her fall.
Zevin once again explores some virginal and rugged territory. How essential are our memories? Can our memories paint a different picture than the reality of an event? Are there some memories better left lost? Zevin triumphs, in part, because she creates wholly realized teens and adults who live and breathe within the pages of the book and seem almost to take on a life of their own. No one is totally good or evil. They are human, full of faults and yet ready to assist someone in need. Ace is not simply a dumb jock nor Will a nerd. Naomi's memory loss exacerbates her transition in her personal relationships, to be sure. But is it just the amnesia that makes these relationships so complicated? There is plenty to think about after reading this remarkable novel.
And, if anyone out there has not read ELSEWHERE, go now and do that immediately.