When I was in college at the University of Minnesota, I took an Honors Seminar class that focused on memory and the construction of self. We met on Tuesday and Thursday mornings at 8am, and took turns leading discussions and bringing breakfast. I’ve always been fascinated by the role that memories serve in shaping who we are as people, and during those discussions, I found myself questioning how I constructed my own identity. What memories shaped who I am? What else shaped me into the person I am?
So what happens when you wake up on a train platform in India without the slightest idea of who you are or how you arrived at the train platform in the first place? No memories at all. What kind of identity can you construct of who you are?
David Stuart MacLean’s debut book “The Answer to the Riddle is Me: A Memoir of Amnesia” answers the above mentioned questions with articulate prose and profound self discovery. On October 7, 2002 when MacLean woke up and “could feel a heavy absence in [his] brain, like a static cloud” on the train platform in Hyderabad, India, he sobbed as a kind officer took him to a halfway house assuming that he was just another American tourist who was addicted to drugs. MacLean ends up in a mental institution where he regains some memories, but mostly fades in and out of short bouts of waking and sleeping nightmares. He realizes after his parents arrive that his memory loss stems from a severe allergic reaction to the anti-malaria drug Larium (which was routinely prescribed by his doctor after David received a Fulbright scholarship in India). Continue reading “Book Review: ‘The Answer to the Riddle is Me: A Memoir of Amnesia’ by David Stuart MacLean” »