Rating – 4.5 out of 5
Memorial by Bryan Washington is about Benson and Mike who are a couple living in Houston, TX that have been together for 6 years. Except, they’re not sure why they’re together anymore. Mike, who is Japanese, is called back to Japan to care for his dying father just as his mother shows up to visit. Mike leaves his mother with Benson in an absurd living arrangement that neither expected but comes to mean so much to both. Without Mike there to pull him back, Benson begins to push into the unknown and explore what he wants out of life. Benson does the same on the other side of the world. In the end, they know that they will have to change together or fracture apart, but either way, they’ll be ok.
“But I guess that’s the thing: we take our memories wherever we go, and what’s left are the ones that stick around, and that’s how we make a life.” ― Bryan Washington, Memorial
“That loving a person means letting them change when they need to. And letting them go when they need to. And that doesn’t make them any less of a home. Just maybe not one for you. Or only for a season or two. But that doesn’t diminish the love. It just changes forms.” ― Bryan Washington, Memorial
Reading Memorial by Bryan Washington is a very emotional experience. The book is written in Washington’s detached way that leaves one reminiscent of both a stream of consciousness and a dream. If you’ve read The Lot you know that Washington has a gift of putting you right in the moment with the character, letting you experience what they are experiencing. There is very little punctuation but what it lacks in formality it makes up for in raw emotion. At different points I found myself having to put it down to work through my own feelings and reflect on my own relationships.
If you’re looking for happy endings, or resolution tied up in a bow, this book isn’t for you. This work is much more about the work behind grief, the small moments surrounding it that every person experiences. It’s also about pushing forward and finding yourself when things do not go to plan. And it’s about getting stuck and letting mediocrity take over everything. It’s about Japan and it’s about Houston. I have read Washington’s work before and this is one of his most beautiful pieces of narrative. It connected with me in many ways that I didn’t see coming.
I recommend this book if you’re searching for yourself and wanting to find more about loss and grief.
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