Updated: Apr 8, 2021
Memorial by Bryan Washington was an easy choice for me when I saw it as a Book of the Month selection last November. This is my first book of his, but I had seen great reviews of his previous novel, Lot, and wanted to check out Washington's writing. I am making it a priority to make a dent in my unread BOTM books and Memorial was next on that list. While, I didn't love this one, it is a story with LGBTQ+ representation and interracial relationships that is so, so important.
Benson and Mike have been dating for a couple of years. They live together in Houston, TX, and things are...fine. But they are each questioning if their relationship is right for them. Mike learns that his father is dying in his birthplace Osaka, Japan, so he books a last minute ticket to visit him. Simultaneously, Mike's mother is flying into Houston from Japan and staying with them. While Mike is away in Japan, getting to know the father who left him as a young boy, Benson lives with Mike's mother as unconventional roommates. Memorial is a story about love and family. About all the awkwardness of finding yourself and who you are when you enter a relationship, as well as who you become because of that relationship, and what is keeping you in it.
It is evident that I am not the target audience for this book and I am taking that in consideration while I write this review. While I appreciated the diverse characters and the LGBTQ+ representation with this love story, it felt a bit flat for me. I found myself struggling to get into the writing and hesitant to pick it up each day. I'm not sure what it is about writers not using quotation marks, but it really does throw me and bit and affect how I feel about the writing. On one hand, it's unique and creates a quick flowing story, but on the other hand, it slows me down and has me questioning who said what when dialogue is taking place. I also found the plot slow moving and a bit uneventful to keep my attention.
While Memorial wasn't a favorite read of mine, I am glad I gave it a go. The representation of interracial and LGBTQ+ relationships is so important these days and I imagine that a target audience greatly appreciates that. Unfortunately, this wasn't a favorite of mine.
"That loving a person means letting them change when they need to. And letting them go when they need to. And that doesn't make them any less of a home. Just maybe not one for you. Or only for a season or two. But that doesn't diminish the love. It just changes forms."
"There's the thing that happens, and then there's the shit that happens around it. They're as important as the actual event."
"The big moments are never big when they're actually fucking happening."
Content warning: death of parent