The Answer to the Riddle Is Me: A Memoir of Amnesia
by David MacLean
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014. 292 pages. Biography.
David MacLean wakes up one day on a train station platform in India. He doesn't know who he is or why he is in India - or even why he is at a train station. Plagued with hallucinations, paranoia, and severe depression, MacLean struggles to reconstruct his forgotten life after a serious reaction to a common anti-malarial drug causes severe amnesia.
I picked this up because the concept sounded intriguing - who doesn't want to read about amnesia? (Every author falls back on amnesia as a plot at some point, after all.) This is a heart-wrenching account of the realities of amnesia, told in startling detail. MacLean is very open about exactly how he felt during the first years of his new life, addressing his confusion and vulnerability fearlessly. But what I loved most about this book was the writing itself. MacLean is a novelist, and it shows even in a nonfiction work. The book reads very much like a novel - the prose is bright and vivid, and he uses common fiction tropes, like shortened chapters to lend a feeling of the episodic nature of his early awakening in amnesia, that make it a much less dense read than many nonfiction books. Beautifully written and eminently readable.