Jennifer Egan’s cool, transcendent prose meets Karen Thompson Walker’s speculative eye in this luminous literary debut following two patients in recovery after an experimental memory drug warps their lives.
Lucien moves to Los Angeles to be with his grandmother as she undergoes an experimental memory treatment for Alzheimer’s using the new drug, Memoroxin. An emerging photographer, he’s running from the sudden death of his mother, a well-known abstract expressionist painter. Even far from New York, her legacy haunts Lucien.
Sophie has just been cast as a lead in the upcoming performance of La Sylphide with the Los Angeles Ballet. She still waitresses during her off-hours at the Chateau Marmont, witnessing the recreational use of Mem pills among the Hollywood elite—people consuming memories not their own. One controlling, powerful regular’s obsession with Sophie spurs a series of events that threatens to unravel the life she has so carefully built.
When Lucien and Sophie meet at The Center, founded by the ambitious yet conflicted Dr. Angelica Sloane as a way 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”?
Set in a city that seems to have no memory of its own, The Shimmering State is a graceful meditation on the power of story and its creation. It masterfully explores memory and how it can elude us, trap us, or set us free.