One of the constituents that makes us human is the ability to recollect memories, whether good or bad. There are times we so much want to hold onto the memories of a lover, friends or family because of the enormous impact they have played in our lives, a benign recollection. While we have fond memories there are also other memories that are malignant and could lead to a life of misery, depression, and hate. Such memories could be heartbreaks, death of a loved one, disappointment or other heart wrenching incidents.
Tell me an ending is Jo Harkin’s debut. It’s a dystopian novel about a tech company that deletes unwanted memories. The book is segmented into five parts with five narrators:
Noor; a psychologist working at Nepenthe, a memory removal clinic in London. The client she was having a session with is a self-informed client. There are two types of clients in Nepenthe: the self-informed and the self-confidential clients. The self-informed clients know that they have had a memory removed while the self-confidential clients don’t. Noor seems to enjoy the nature of her job and classifying herself to the group of messiahs trying to help humanity solve their problem. But she begins to question her cause when she encounters an elderly protester carrying a placard with the word “RASA COVER-UP” written on it. She hasn’t heard the word RASA before, her curiosity drives her to find out the secrets and vices of Nepenthe.
Mei; a troubled grad school dropout who has flashbacks from a city she has never visited. Mei struggles with an identity crisis after removing all online conversations with her friends, “untagging” herself from photos, and “unfriending” them on social media. Her search for the truth leads her down an emotional spiral.
Finn; an Irish architect who suspects his wife of infidelity. Finn’s marriage starts to crumble after he finds out that a memory has been removed without his consent. He soon finds himself questioning his marriage, friendship and the paternity of his child.
Oscar; a young man with almost no memories at all and only knows that he is on the run. Oscar considers himself a madman and was on the run for the better part of his life. He was troubled by the missing part of his life and wanted to figure out his past.
William; a former police inspector, struggling to understand the origins of his PTSD. He chooses to resolve this by restoring his past memories which brings more harm than good to him.
The style of narration in this novel is unique because it provides the reader the opportunity to know and connect with each character. Each character is allowed a chapter to tell their own stories.
Harkin does a wonderful job of capturing the ethics of forgetting one’s past, especially the negative ones. Of the truth, there is no point lingering on a detrimental past. The past should be in the past. It shouldn’t define our present or cause a negative effect on our future.
This novel is a compelling read and the triggering subjects revolving around the characters make a strong and relatable case for memory deletion. While it appears that deletion of memory could be expedient, there are devastating consequences to it.
Though the backstories quite made the novel confusing at some point, if you read with a clear mind you will definitely enjoy the story.
I recommend Tell Me an Ending to fiction readers who love sci-fi with a mixture of philosophy and melancholy. To listen to this audiobook, click on “buy audiobook” below!