Find Me, by Laura Van Den Berg, is not what I expected it to be when I requested it. While on the surface a post-apocalyptic tale of America coping with an epidemic that makes you forget before eventually causing you to die (your brain literally melts away), Find Me serves more as an exploration of memory, told from the point of view of a 19-year-old, aimless Stop & Shop cashier who spends most of her time drowning her memories in cherry-flavored Robitussin filched from her workplace before the sickness hits.
Joy, the main character, tells her story in a stream of consciousness fashion, passing from memory to memory as they come up, not as they happened. At first, I found Find Me a difficult book to read, if only because the rhythm of Van Den Berg’s prose is, in a word, erratic. But, by a third of the way through, I found myself drawn to both the meandering yet tight plot and to Laura Van Den Berg’s simple and yet perfect similes and metaphors. For example:
“I feel like my life is a tent someone has folded up and carried away.” p. 142
“In the light of the bathroom, I see lines on my face. They almost look like scars except I’ve never been cut by anything but time.” p. 254
“If I concentrated very hard, I could remember one detail about my mother. A scent, something close to fresh-cut grass. Now there was an image to fill in what memory had failed to catch. All I was missing was a name.” p. 33
“What is a memory but the telling of a story?” p. 243
This is definitely an excellent read, despite my rocky start. It reminded my of Sarah Hall’s How to Paint a Dead Man, largely for the more unique storytelling technique and the author’s ability to use the perfect phrase to conjure up an image. It was also reminiscent of Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder, whose story is told from first-person perspective with flash-backs that threaten to derail the plot, and yet manage, instead, to strengthen it. Plus, Patchett also includes an assured and arrogant scientist whose true purpose is a mystery at the beginning.