elf: Quote: She is too fond of books, and it has turned her brain (Fond of Books)
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Author: Jose Rodriguez
Title: Melanie (Smashwords link)
Genre: Fiction, Drama
Topic: Memory loss, personal identity, race identity

Copyright Status: "This book may be reproduced, copied and distributed for non-commercial purposes, provided the book remains in its complete original form."
Content Notes: Contains plot-device amnesia

The description intrigued me enough to download and read this one:
A middle aged and lonely Melanie wakes up with no recollection of her past. Her lack of personal memories forces her to impersonate the old Melanie, a person who she now dislikes and cannot understand. The new Melanie proceeds to fool the world into thinking that nothing has changed while trying to recover her memories but also trying to reinvent herself as a new and improved person.
The book is heavy on introspection and self-identity issues, and those parts were enjoyable, if a bit long. The "adult" rating is justified; there's sex and nudity and crude behavior, but it's not gratuitous or overwhelming, except for the occasional sensory overload when Melanie concentrates on physical sensations because she has no past to connect to. Several times, she realizes she *should* have memories to connect to this-or-that act, but does not.

Unfortunately, it fell short of my hopes; I expected an exploration of mental health concepts and how amnesia could change a person's sense of self (and perhaps, because of the "casual sex" tag and the "may not be suitable for under 18s" warning, bits of erotica). Instead, for the vast majority of the book, I thought Melanie had Magic McGuffin Amnesia, with no connection to how amnesia manifests in actual people. (I don't know much at all about amnesia, so I can't be sure of this. It sure did seem conveniently shaped, though.)

The story itself is intriguing, and the amnesia seemed consistent if not particularly realistic. Melanie's attempts to research her own history, including her Latina heritage, kept me reading; I was fascinated by both her methods and the fragments she discovered.

The book's flaws were:
1) It could use a SPAG editor; while the grammar and spelling errors weren't bad enough to make the reading unpleasant, they were occasionally jarring. (One man was described as having a "goat tee.")
2) It could use a content editor; the word count could be cut in half, and it'd be a stronger, more intense story.

The introspection was good, but it dragged on. And on. And on. If you like page after page of "who am I? How did I get here?" considerations, this is worth reading; if you have a particular fascination with American Latin@ culture, it may contain enough to keep you interested. (It doesn't have much, but it was enough to catch my attention.) Otherwise... this was an interesting read, but not quite a good one. I'll be checking the author's other books; I'll try his short stories, because the basic premise was fascinating and the prose was well-written, but I'll give his novel-length works a pass for now.


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