Book Review: The Memory Police by Yōko Ogawa

Looking for your next read? Check out The Memory Police by Yōko Ogawa, reviewed by Fulco Library staff, Hannah M.

Life on the island is one of transience. Ordinary objects can disappear at a moment’s notice – and with them, all memory of them. The people of the island do not seem fazed by these disappearances. It is as ordinary a thing as going to the store or eating a meal, except more and more necessary items begin to vanish. Stores run low for lack of un-disappeared food, and things such as boats are disappeared to keep the inhabitants trapped. And anyone discovered with memories of disappeared objects intact soon vanish themselves, right into the back of the Memory Police’s trucks. The narrator, whose name we do not know, stands at the edge of remembering and forgetting. When she finds out a dear friend is one of those who can remember all the disappeared things, she creates a hidden room in which to keep him safe. But for how long can she hide from the Memory Police, and how long can she keep him secret, if she herself might one day disappear?

The Memory Police is a quiet, haunting tale that makes us wonder just who will remember us when we’ve gone, if we leave behind no trace of our lives. A story of magical realism along the lines of Garcia Marquez, Murakami, and Kafka, reading The Memory Police is like walking through a hazy dream that you try to remember once you wake. Yōko Ogawa, known for her novels about memory and memory loss, places it as an epidemic from which no one can escape.

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