If memories anchor our sense of self, how does one go forward into the future without them? The novel Remind Me Again What Happened by Joanna Luloff explores the ephemeral quality of memory and its power to shape our present and future. The main character, Claire, a traveling journalist, catches the mosquito-borne virus Japanese encephalitis that puts her in a coma and erases her memory when she awakes. Her dutiful husband Charlie and her best friend Rachel put their lives on hold to care for Claire and are forced to confront the trio’s complicated relationship, secrets, and past hurts. Told in alternating points of view between Claire, Charlie, and Rachel, the trio reveals a codependency on each other, dating back to their days sharing a house in graduate school. A love triangle develops unintentionally with much left unsaid and misunderstood between Rachel and Charlie. Claire, the master manipulator of the group, ends up with Charlie. They marry and move away leaving Rachel alone, the perpetually single, dependable friend.
With Claire’s memory gone, the three become unmoored in their own relationships with each other as Rachel says in a confrontation with Charlie: “I want her to remember those years too. Without her memories, it’s hard to be certain that we all loved each other; it’s hard to believe that those moments ever existed. And of course, it’s impossible to lay blame, isn’t it? When the other person can’t confirm the past.”
Three’s a crowd as Claire struggles to recover, fighting her wanderlust urge to return to work and escape her troubled marriage. “The half-spoken accusations, the old hurts pushing to the surface” eventually lead to betrayals and new beginnings.
The author Joanna Luloff seamlessly weaves this riveting story together with three voices that reveal the elusive nature of reality. Perception is subjective not science and memory helps ground what’s really real in relationships. If you no longer had a shared past, no memory of what once was—would you pick that person as a friend or as a lover again?