The Memory Key - Liana Liu

Lora Mint is determined not to forget.

Though her mother's been dead for five years, Lora struggles to remember every detail about her—most important, the specific events that occurred the night she sped off in her car, never to return.

But in a world ravaged by Vergets disease, a viral form of Alzheimer's, that isn't easy. Usually Lora is aided by her memory key, a standard-issue chip embedded in her brain that preserves memories just the way a human brain would. Then a minor accident damages Lora's key, and her memories go haywire. Suddenly Lora remembers a moment from the night of her mother's disappearance that indicates her death was no accident. Can she trust these formerly forgotten memories? Or is her ability to remember every painful part of her past driving her slowly mad—burying the truth forever?

Lora's story of longing for her lost mother—and for the truth behind her broken memories—takes readers on a twisty ride. The authentic, emotional narrative sparks fascinating questions about memory and privacy in a world that increasingly relies on electronic recall.


This was a rather fascinating book mainly because of the concept and the thoughts it provoked in me, but the plot and the characters didn't satisfy me.


In this world, a lot of the older generation had been struck with a disease causing them to lose their memories, and as such, most people now have memory keys to preserve memories. Just like the real human brain, the chips make these memories harder to recall over time. There was little other information given about this world--while it would assumedly be in the future, people still go to the library to use the internet, which implies that it's more of a today type setting.


Our main character, Lora, had her mother die five years prior to the beginning of this book, and she laments this loss daily. She finds that as she loses the vivid memories of her mother she once had, she almost loses her mother again, something that many people can relate to. But one day, she bumps her head and the part of her key that affects her ability to recall memories gets screwed up and all of a sudden she can basically relive her memories.


What strikes her is the memories she has of the night before her mother's death when some strangers showed up at her house. However, I don't understand why this wasn't a big deal to Lora at the time. It seems like she's always been looking for a way her mother could have survived, so I'd assume that a younger Lora especially would have fixated on these events.


More interesting is her interactions with her friends Wendy and Tim after her key is affected. She can recall times she was angry with them and relive them directly, and she finds that her anger is just as fresh after going through these memories. This made me think of the human ability to forget as almost a gift.


I found that the plot became overly complicated. There were a lot of characters who had been friends with Lora's mother and who had been journalists using her mother as a source and who had been her mother's sister's husband an I never quite became invested enough to make a map of them all in my head. The final few chapters especially I kind of just rolled with instead of trying to really comprehend them.


Perhaps I wasn't as invested because Lora herself wasn't invested. She uncovers a pretty sinister plot but throughout the book, her focus is ONLY on her mother. I get that her mother is obviously an important character in her life, but I got kind of annoyed with her for being so self-centered and narrow minded. Honestly, Wendy should have been a lot more annoyed with Lora's actions than she was.


I did very much enjoy the idea of how memories function and how they could be used and abused, how they could be uploaded and stored, how brains could encrypt them in their own fashion, etc. I enjoyed the thoughts the premise provoked in me. But really, I could have read a one page philosophical paper summarizing the premise and been as satisfied and saved myself from dealing with the overly complicated plot and with Lora's single-mindedness.