What if You Can’t Remember Anything About Your Life?

The Man Who Forgot His Wife, John O’Farrell

John O’Farrell has written a brilliant novel about a man who wakes up on a train and has no idea who he is. Initially no one wants to help him until a good samaritan points out the nearest hospital a few blocks away. Vaughan (as he will later learn is his name) goes through a comical attempt to get himself looked at by doctors who anyone who has had to deal with bureaucrats who can’t think outside of their forms and procedures will be able to relate to, as admitting nurses want to know his social security number, name, address, next of kin and everything else he obviously doesn’t know. When Vaughan finally learns who he is (I won’t give away how), he is amazed to find out he’s got two kids and is in the final stages of a brutal divorce. Visiting his father who he can’t remember at all, but who is on his hospital deathbed so he doesn’t want to add to the man’s suffering with his problems, it is evident his father loves his exwife like a daughter, he is obviously unaware they aren’t happily married and Vaughan isn’t going to let on otherwise.  Vaughan’s seen his wife and can’t imagine why he would want a divorce from her, but his best friend is adamant he does and the he won’t be happy with himself if he delays the divorce process. Vaughan is also learning he doesn’t like everything he is learning about the old Vaughan, the old Vaughan had some habits and tendencies he can’t believe. In fact the way that guy lived his life is not how Vearne wants to live his. Can Vaughan reclaim the best parts of his own life and remodel the rest. Can he convince his wife to give their marriage a second chance even though she can’t stand the sight of him. If he gets his memory back will he regret doing any of that. Vearne has a lot to think about.

If I had anything to be critical about this book it’s that it probably could have wrapped up at the three quarter mark as it just seems to be going through the motions from that stage.  There’s been quite a few books written over the past couple of years following a main character with memory loss and this would easily be one the best of them.  If you were put off by the terrible Before I Go to Sleep by S. J. Watson don’t let that stop you giving this one a try.  Other good books in this genre are Retirement Homes are Murder by Mike Befeler and Memory by Donald E Westlake.

Although on different topics, O’Farrell’s other three novels, The Best a Man Can GetThis is Your Life and May Contain Nuts are also really good reads.