I received an advance reader’s copy (ARC) of Tell Me An Ending by Jo Harkin. Since this version is just a proof and not the final version, I won’t quote directly and will keep my comments general.
Don’t worry, I won’t tell you the ending to this book.
In Tell Me An Ending, we follow several different characters, almost all of whom have had a specific memory erased by a company known as Nepenthe, which specializes in memory removal, especially of troubling or traumatic experiences. However, the emergence of latent traces of the memories, as well as lawsuits, have resulted in a new rule for Nepenthe: they must inform all their clients who wanted the procedure to be secret even to themselves that it happened. So four people across the globe—Mei, Oscar, Mirande, and William—have to grapple with this news, and whether or not to get their memories back. Meanwhile, Noor is coming every day to work at Nepenthe, though she’s starting to wonder if her boss is doing something illegal.
This was a very odd book. The premise is incredibly intriguing, and I really liked the idea of all the characters only being connected by this one entity. And overall, this was a decent book. You really have to suspend your disbelief, because though the memory removal technology sounds good for fiction, it also just sounds very sci-fi (and not in an Andy Weir, this-is-basically-plausible-right-now kind of way). But I liked the depiction of how people would react to a company that does this, as well as the various problems that might occur with doing this sort of thing. The moral dilemmas are fascinating; after all, what are the ethics of removing a memory, even if the person consents? How can the effects truly be foreseen? And what makes a person who they are, if not their memories?
I also enjoyed seeing how the various characters’ lives gradually started to overlap or interact. The revelation of how they were connected was very well paced and written overall. The writing in general is quite competent. The dialogue is good, the settings are vivid, and the plot intricate without being too convoluted.
For me, though, the main weakness was the characters. Not to say they weren’t well-rounded or interesting, because they were. I just didn’t really connect with any of them, or feel like I knew them that well. I was interested to see what happened without being truly invested, if that makes any sense. So when bad things occurred (to one in particular, but also to the rest) I didn’t feel the emotional impact I was probably supposed to. That said, my favorite character was Mei.
And all in all, the ending didn’t really blow me away. The story just kind of stopped for several of the plot threads, and the ones that did have more of a resolution still left me with a few questions. I think this will make some readers quite satisfied, if they like thought-provoking open-ended conclusions, but something about it didn’t fully work for me. And in the end, though I didn’t dislike Tell Me An Ending, I also think I could have gotten more out of the experience. I certainly wouldn’t wipe my memory of reading it, though!
Content note: There are discussions of depression, infidelity, sex, trauma, PTSD, and suicide in this story. I would say the latter two in particular are more graphic, so if these are topics that affect you strongly, take care going into this book.
Tell Me An Ending was published on March 1st, 2022!