While described as a ghost story, readers of The Memento may be disappointed if they’re looking to be scared out of their wits. But if you’re looking for a story of the things that can haunt us – grief, substance abuse, difficult family relationships – this might fit the bill.
With gothic elements reminiscent of Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre, The Memento picks up the story of Fancy Mosher, a minor character in Conlin’s first novel Heave. As she turns twelve, she learns the secret her family has been hiding about her and what she might be capable of. Fancy is living apart from her alcoholic mother after the death of her grandfather. She works with her caregiver as a servant at Petal’s End, the crumbling Parker family estate. As with any wealthy family, mystery shrouds Petal’s End and Conlin slowly spins a lyrical web while revealing their history.
Marigold, the aging Parker matriarch has survived a stroke, and decides to return to Petal’s End for the summer. She wants to organize a huge garden party that one can only imagine is doomed for disaster as tensions rise within the family. As the servants rush around getting things in order for their arrival and the party itself, I fully expected them to discover a forgotten Parker relative locked in the attic.
Beautifully written with a wide cast of characters, The Memento keeps you guessing until the very last pages as secret after secret come tumbling out.
The Memento is popular as Conlin is a local author, so while you wait you may enjoy:
The Ghost Writer by John Harwood
“Haunted by his mother’s mysterious death, timid, solitary Gerard Freeman lives for two things: his elusive pen pal and the secret manuscript that his mother gave her life to protect. Suspecting that something within that manuscript holds the key to his mother’s terrified refusal to return to her childhood home, Gerard sets out to unveil the mystery shrouding his family. What he discovers is a sinister ghost story written by his great-grandmother that implicates his mother in a devastating family tragedy. The more he reads, the more he understands his mother’s cryptic warning: “One of them came true . . . ” Combining the intricate literary playfulness of Possession with the heart-racing suspense of The Others, Harwood’s astonishingly assured debut simmers with spellbinding horror and dark intrigue.”.
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
“Vida Winter, a bestselling yet reclusive novelist, has created many outlandish life histories for herself, all of them invention. Now old and ailing, at last she wants to tell the truth about her extraordinary life. Her letter to biographer Margaret Lea – a woman with secrets of her own – is a summons. Vida’s tale is one of gothic strangeness featuring the Angelfield family: the beautiful and wilful Isabelle and the feral twins Adeline and Emmeline. Margaret succumbs to the power of Vida’s storytelling, but as a biographer she deals in fact not fiction and she doesn’t trust Vida’s account. As she begins her researches, two parallel stories unfold. Join Margaret as she begins her journey to the truth – hers, as well as Vida’s”
Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
“A woman marries an English nobleman and returns with him to Manderley, his country estate. There, she finds herself haunted by reminders of his first wife, Rebecca, who died in a boating accident less than a year earlier. In this case, the haunting is psychological, not physical: Rebecca does not appear as a ghost, but her spirit affects nearly everything that takes place at Manderley. The narrator, whose name is never divulged, is left with a growing sense of distrust toward those who loved Rebecca, wondering just how much they resent her for taking Rebecca’s place. In the final chapters, the book turns into a detective story, as the principal characters try to reveal or conceal what really happened on the night Rebecca died.”