While studying in India on a Fulbright scholarship in 2002, Ohio native MacLean abruptly lost consciousness and came to his senses in a Hyderabad train station minus any memories of his name or reasons for being there. Luckily, a kindly station attendant took pity on the presumably drug-addled foreigner and found him refuge in a well-run mental hospital where he hallucinated his way back to reality as friends and parents were contacted. So begins this riveting, sad, and funny memoir from PEN literary award-winner MacLean, expanded from an essay featured on the radio show, This American Life. Contrary to the station agent’s assumption, however, MacLean’s amnesia was triggered by an allergic reaction to Lariam, a common antimalaria agent that receives a scathing critique here. In addition to short-circuiting his memories, the drug’s aftermath forced MacLean to get reacquainted with his parents, a girlfriend, and his rationale for coming to India in the first place. His work is both a sharply written autobiography and an insightful meditation on how much our memories define our identities. --Carl Hays
"MacLean has written a memoir that combines the evocative power of William Styron's "Darkness Visible," the lyric subtlety of Michael Ondaatje's "Running in the Family," and the narrative immediacy of a Hollywood action film. He reminds us how we are all always trying to find a version of ourselves that we can live with." - The Los Angeles Times
"(MacLean) is an exceedingly entertaining psychotic." "Thanks to his raw, honest and beautiful memoir, readers will . . . have a clear idea what his experience was like. We can be grateful Mr. MacLean has remembered so much, and so well." - The New York Times
Praise for The Answer to the Riddle is Me:
"A gripping medical mystery, a heartwarming personal journey, and a chilling indictment of the commonly prescribed drug that upended MacLean's life—but left his superb literary skills intact."
—Rebecca Skloot, New York Times bestselling author of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
"A mesmerizing, unsettling memoir about the ever-echoing nature of identity—written in vivid, blooming detail."
—Gillian Flynn, New York Times bestselling author of Gone Girl
"MacLean fearlessly explores his journey to the edge of madness and his subsequent return to sanity in an unsettling, sometimes riotous, memoir."
"A deeply moving account of amnesia that explores the quandary of the self . . . MacLean has written a memoir that combines the evocative power of William Styron's ‘Darkness Visible,’ the lyric subtlety of Michael Ondaatje's ‘Running in the Family’ and the narrative immediacy of a Hollywood action film. He reminds us how we are all always trying to find a version of ourselves that we can live with."
—Los Angeles Times
"incandescent...MacLean’s account is raw and unsparing, and will surely take you out of your comfort zone — the reader is immersed in the writer’s oblivion and his vertiginous journey of recovery — but the reward for sticking with it is the privilege of reading MacLean’s profound and finely nuanced meditation on memory and identity."
—The Seattle Times
"What does it mean to be the person you are? How much can be stripped away before you are no longer you? This is a fascinating book that resides in the mind as if you lived it yourself. "
—Robert Boswell, author of Tumbledown
"Thoughtful, terribly honest, often funny, and utterly un-self-indulgent, this is a riveting work of narrative art."
—Tony Hoagland, author of What Narcissism Means to Me
"A compelling personal account and a frightful caution to physicians and travelers who continue to place their faith in a very dangerous drug."
—Dr. Remington L. Nevin, MPH, Mefloquine expert
"Brilliant and painful and hilarious."
—Antonya Nelson, author Some Fun
"David Stuart MacLean is a writer who can break your heart, terrify you, and make you laugh all on the same page. The Answer to The Riddle is Me is a masterful exploration of the funhouse of identity."
—Mat Johnson, author of Pym
"While MacLean's experience is unlucky indeed, the luck becomes ours as he takes us with him on his harrowing journey, which is rendered with exactitude, humor, and lyricism."
—Maggie Nelson, author of The Art of Cruelty: A Reckoning