By Michael Paul Kowzlosky
Publication Date: August 2, 2022
In most respects, Sean Whittlesea lives an average life. He’s a senior-level tech manager, has two children, and a mortgage. What sets him apart is his status as a widower who’s been unable to either remember or move on from the tragedy of his young wife’s death two decades prior.
After being a lucky “winner” at his company, his boss gives him a black box that will play back every memory Sean’s ever had, promising that the box will change his life. Instead, the box takes over Sean’s life, slowly eroding his relationship with his children and fiancée, until Sean is convinced that his entire life has been a lie. Even the night of his wife’s death.
I’ve seen so many genres bandied about for this book, sci-fi being the most prevalent. I’m going with literary and speculative fiction, (which I do realize covers sci-fi). The plot revolving around the black box (the Memory Palace) reminded me a bit of the plot in The Candy House by Jennifer Egan, but that’s where the similarities end. This novel focuses on Sean with the author staying profoundly in his head, doing a deep dive into how many of our memories are real, and how many are false memories we’ve told ourselves, convinced of their truth. And if our memories aren’t “real,” where does that leave us?
At times bizarre, at times poignant, and at times a little cringeworthy, the novel is peopled with memorable characters that the author shines a spotlight on, not glossing over any warts. His method of dripping in realities, of providing more context for character’s actions bit by bit, is artfully done. Just like Sean’s memories, we don’t get the full picture at first glance.
In a word, this novel was fulfilling. I was satisfied when I swiped the last page. Also, the title will really make you think, or possibly take another look at, “The Wizard of Oz”.
I’m hoping to see more by this author and I rated this novel a solid 4 stars. ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Thank you to BookSirens for providing the ARC. I’ve left my review honestly and voluntarily.
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