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.
Meredith Westgate grew up in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She is a graduate of Dartmouth College and holds an MFA in fiction from The New School. The Shimmering State is her first novel.
“Meredith Westgate’s prose strikes the right kind of balance when it comes to literary writing: it’s lush and dreamy, yet emotionally sharp and poignant. She uses speculative elements to examine memory as a commodity. Yet, interstitial, mundane scenes—sitting through L.A. traffic, entering mid-conversation at a party, hatefully waiting for your order of kale noodles—are also transformed into thought-provoking moments. I read Meredith’s examination of our obsession with “forever”—in social media and, in her world, in memory, and how we do the strangest things to maintain that lie, and I just think: Meredith gets it. She totally gets it.
Like the characters desperate to lose themselves in other people’s memories, you won’t want to leave The Shimmering State until you’ve run out of pages.” —Loan Le, Editor, on The Shimmering State