June 24, 2014
What would you do if you searched your own past and uncovered something shocking?
In this gripping marriage thriller, a group of privileged suburban moms amuse themselves by Googling everyone in town, digging up dirt to fuel thorny gossip. Caroline Thompson, devoted mother of two, sticks to the moral high ground and attempts to avoid these women. She’s relieved to hear her name appears only three times, citing her philanthropy. Despite being grateful that she has nothing to hide, a delayed pang of insecurity prods Caroline to Google her maiden name—which none of the others know.
The hits cascade like a tsunami. Caroline’s terrified by what she reads. An obituary for her sister, JD? That’s absurd. With every click, the revelations grow more alarming. They can’t be right. She’d know. Caroline is hurled into a state of paranoia—upending her blissful family life—desperate to prove these allegations false before someone discovers they’re true.
The disturbing underpinnings of The Memory Box expose a story of deceit, misconceptions, and an obsession for control. With its twists, taut pacing, and psychological tenor, Natiello's page-turning suspense cautions:
Be careful what you search for.
I could not put The Memory Box down. Though the first few pages sound like a typical story about a bored housewife who never wanted to end up in the suburbs, a big mystery is soon revealed that leaves the reader constantly questioning what happens next, all the way until the end of the book.
The Memory Box is a great thriller. The pacing is fast, especially with so many twists and unexpected revelations. The way the book is written is also fresh. Part one we get to experience the story from an unreliable narrator’s point of view, whose world is turned upside down the more she delves into her past to figure out the truth behind the mystery.
It all starts when Caroline Thompson decides to do a Google search of her name, for fun. But this leads her to find out that her only sister is dead. Confused and not able to remember the last time she spoke to her sister, Caroline works hard to find out more information. But the uncovering of this event only leads to more questions and a pile-up of secrets, and soon Caroline knows more than she can handle.
The one big question for me, that nagged me throughout the story, was how could Caroline possibly forget the death of her sister? Especially given that they were very close growing up. In part one there is a vague answer of repressed memories, but the truth comes out in part two.
In part two we are introduced to a different Caroline narrator. This Caroline’s memory is crystal clear, and she is much more cunning than the Caroline in part one. The reason for this is a huge plot twist, where we learn that the story told in part one has been fictionalized, and is actually a manuscript the real Caroline has been working on. The story is based on Caroline’s real life, but she decided to make it a novel in order to tell her story but also keep her new life intact.
Caroline confesses to her therapist that she was actually the one behind her sister’s death, after she discovered her sister had had sex with her ex-fiance, and the two of them had a child.
I normally don’t like to write about spoilers in reviews, but in this case there was one piece of the story that didn’t quite make sense to me. Caroline claims her secret is safe because her therapist has to keep patient confidentiality. However, therapists are obligated to tell the police if their patients threaten to harm themselves or others. Even though in this case the deed was done, it would make sense that Caroline’s therapist could break confidentiality to report her to the authorities.
Overall, I was completely hooked on this story, until the very end. Although I think the final twists are clever, I was looking forward to learning how Caroline could possibly forget her life from the past few years. But, thinking on it now, there is no plausible way to make that work. Regardless, I’m looking forward to reading Eva Lesko Natiello’s next novel.