Lucien moves to Los Angeles to be with his grandmother as she undergoes an experimental memory treatment for Alzheimer's using a new drug, Memoroxin. Sophie, a dancer, waitresses during her off-hours at the Chateau Marmont, witnessing the recreational use of Memoroxin—or Mem—among the Hollywood elite. When Lucien and Sophie meet at the Center, founded by the ambitious yet conflicted Dr. Angelica Sloane to treat patients who've abused Mem, they have no memory of how they got there—or why they feel so inexplicably drawn to one another. Is it attraction, or something they cannot remember from "before"?
[A] dreamy and dazzling first novel ... when memory and personhood are unhooked from each other, how do we know what we understand about reality and our past? ... As the story deepens, the timelines – past and present – grow closer, and Westgate skillfully tightens the tension so that readers turn pages quickly, needing to know what will happen next ... its setting is fully realized – Westgate conjures a vivid Los Angeles full of aspiring dreamers and those who would take advantage of them ... [A] compelling story about what a person will do to relieve pain – and what is lost in that release.
[A] poignant, quietly romantic debut novel ... Even as a science-fiction hook, Memoroxin requires considerable suspension of disbelief, but Westgate’s portrayals of young, artistic L.A. strivers, the parties they attend, and the unstable landscape in which they attempt to find their footing ring true.
What’s it like to have one’s consciousness tinkered with in this way, so fundamentally and so easily? Ms. Westgate reproduces some of the effects of the drugs—an italicized voice competing with Sophie’s internal monologue; a slide reel of images from Lucien’s grandmother’s past—but for the most part the ramifications of memory alteration are left unimagined. Los Angeles, rather than the landscape of the mind, is the novel’s most developed setting. The cast of Left Coast archetypes...is entertaining, but it’s hard not to think that after a breakthrough as frightening as Memoroxin, the world would be a much less recognizable place.