Review of Tell Me an Ending by Jo Harkin

Tell Me an Ending book cover with RRPL catalog link

Nepenthe is a cutting-edge company that specializes in a certain kind of psychiatric medicine. Unlike traditional therapy, Nepenthe doesn’t dispense medication or help you process your memories. Instead, they delete those memories entirely, and can even make you forget that you got a memory deletion in the first place! In Jo Harkin’s debut novel, Tell Me an Ending, five people must grapple with the fallout of memory deletions in their lives: Noor, a doctor who works at Nepenthe; William, a former police officer with PTSD; Finn, whose wife had a memory deleted; Mei, a girl who remembers a place she’s never been; and Oscar, who doesn’t know who he is, why he’s on the run, or how his bank account is full of money.

I wanted to like this book a lot more than I actually did. I usually love the juxtaposition of a world-altering scientific breakthrough used for something mundane like deleting painful memories of a break up, but I felt that this novel lacked heart. Harkin’s novel is best understood as an investigation of the morality and ethics of memory deletion, less akin to novel than a philosophy discussion in a textbook. The book does have an emotional payoff at the end, but the characters are almost blank slates until more than halfway through the novel, making it difficult to connect with them. All in all, I wanted Harkin to go for more with this book: push her concept farther, develop her characters more, and steer the plot in a less mundane direction. While Tell Me an Ending can be described as science fiction, this is a literary novel that asks questions about how memories define us and if nature or nurture makes us who we are.

Release date: March 1, 2022

Thank you to NetGalley for the ARC!

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