Liv Reese wakes up in the back of a taxi with no idea where she is or how she got there. When she’s dropped off at the door of her brownstone, a stranger answers―a stranger who now lives in her apartment and forces her out in the cold. She reaches for her phone to call for help, only to discover it’s missing, and in its place is a bloodstained knife. That’s when she sees that her hands are covered in black pen, scribbled messages like graffiti on her skin: STAY AWAKE.
Two years ago, Liv was living with her best friend, dating a new man, and thriving as a successful writer for a trendy magazine. Now, she’s lost and disoriented in a New York City that looks nothing like what she remembers. Catching a glimpse of the local news, she’s horrified to see reports of a crime scene where the victim’s blood has been used to scrawl a message across a window, the same message that’s inked on her hands. What did she do last night? And why does she remember nothing from the past two years? Liv finds herself on the run for a crime she doesn’t remember committing as she tries to piece together the fragments of her life. But there’s someone who does know exactly what she did, and they’ll do anything to make her forget―permanently.
In the vein of SJ Watson’s Before I Go to Sleep and Christopher Nolan’s cult classic Memento, Megan Goldin’s Stay Awake is an electrifying novel that plays with memory and murder.
I still remember watching the movie Memento the first time and being totally blown away by the concept. When it was used as a comp title for this book, there was no doubt I’d request it.
Just like Leonard in Memento, Liz Reese makes notes to herself on her hands and arms – Stay awake, Don’t trust anyone, Don’t answer the phone. Every time she falls asleep her mind resets to two years ago, and the last thing she remembers is answering her office phone on a sunny summer morning. A lot happened in that time span. Imagine losing two years of your life – people you can’t remember, places you’ve lived, things you’ve done. Even worse, losing loved ones during that period and every time you’re told about their death you experience the grief all over again. Maybe you can’t exactly relate to what Liz is going through, but it sure is easy to emphathize with her.
This book had me hook, line, and sinker, and I plowed through it as quickly as I could turn the pages. I rooted for Liz to stay awake and remember the crucial details from her past. She hits one obstacle after another, but is fortunate to have found some compassionate people who are also willing to offer help. Around the halfway mark I was pretty sure of the identity of the culprit (I was correct), but I kept waiting for the motive. Yes, something happened that might make that person angry, but based on the information given about them, it seemed completely out of character. I’d hoped some earth-shattering reveal would be made at the end – but it wasn’t. And I felt cheated.
Judging by other reviews, I’m very much in the minority with this opinion, so take it with a grain of salt. Maybe I even missed some crucial line of detail somewhere along the way. This could turn out to be one of the best reads of the year for someone else. Before the ending I was completely engrossed in this book, so I wouldn’t hesitate to read something else by this author.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.