Kim Fay on The Map of Lost Memories
The Map of Lost Memories holds a special place in my heart. When I was a child, my grandfather lived with my family, and at night he would sit on the side of my bed and tell me stories about his life as a sailor in Asia in the 1930s. Together we would pore over his photos, most of which were of Shanghai and showed an exotic world of rickshaws and sampans against a backdrop of majestic European buildings.
As I grew up, my fascination with Asia simmered within me until I graduated from college and made my first trip. I was smitten by the sodden heat, the smell of incense and jasmine down hidden lanes, and the magical combination of foreignness and familiarity. I continued to return to that part of the world until finally I moved to Vietnam. It was there that I read about Andre and Clara Malraux, a French couple who looted a Cambodian temple in the 1920s to raise money for the Communist party. With that, the first glimmer of my novel appeared.
In the following years, surrounded by the remnants of French colonialism, I could not stop thinking about the Westerners who came to Asia to claim a piece of it for themselves. I began to research every bit of information available on the history of illicit art collecting at the beginning of the twentieth century. I traveled to Shanghai to trace the stories my grandfather once told me. And I went to Angkor Wat. I had read so much about this temple and thought about it for such a long time, and still its grandeur stunned me.
Shaped by all of these experiences and my great passion for Asia, The Map of Lost Memories is both an adventure novel and a time capsule.
One of my gramps' photos of Shanghai that inspired The Map of Lost Memories
An abandoned Khmer temple in the jungles of Cambodia in the 1920s
A deserted hallway in Cambodia's Angkor Wat temple in the 1920s
"Fay’s exciting and exotic historical adventure set in the 1920s Far East draws easy comparison to Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder. The plot is original, and the characters are smart."—Library Journal
“[The Map of Lost Memories] has qualities any reader would wish for: adventure, romance, history and a vividly described exotic setting … There is something captivating about this novel. Call it authorial confidence, a sense of place, a splendid technicolor … The Map of Lost Memories has one beautifully met purpose: It brings Cambodia alive.” —The Washington Post
"Fay’s extraordinary first novel has everything great historical adventure fiction should—strikingly original setting, exhilarating plot twists, and a near-impossible quest . . . Every word of this evocative literary expedition feels deliberately chosen, each phrase full of meaning." —Booklist, (starred review)
"Thrilling and ambitious, this is a book to get lost in, a book that homes in on the human drama of the quest and never lets go. A rich debut." —BookPage
"[The Map of Lost Memories] is a thrilling mix of adventure and personal discovery set in Southeast Asia in the 1920s . . . Fay crafts an intricate page-turner that will keep readers breathless and guessing." —Publishers Weekly
"Fay’s debut is intriguing, beautifully written, colorful and multilayered like a lovely tapestry."—Romantic Times
“In The Map of Lost Memories, Kim Fay draws us into a universe as exotic, intense, and historically detailed as the ancient artifacts her unforgettable heroine seeks. It’s a deliciously unexpected journey: Indiana Jones meets Somerset Maugham meets Marguerite Duras; all culminating in a glorious traipse through a forgotten Asian world. This novel will stay with me for a long, long time.”—Jennifer Cody Epstein, author of The Painter from Shanghai
“Kim Fay’s engaging debut novel, The Map of Lost Memories, not only weaves together a smart, compelling story of a quest for scrolls believed to contain the lost history of Cambodia’s ancient Khmer Empire, but also gives us a glimpse into 1920’s China and Indochina during the time of transition from colonialism to the beginnings of communism. With deftness and clarity, Fay brings her world to life and gives us a captivating read.”—Gail Tsukiyama, author of A Hundred Flowers
“In The Map of Lost Memories, Fay updates the archaeological adventure tale with an ambitious heroine and a cast of morally ambiguous characters in a race to discover an ancient temple in the jungles of colonial Cambodia. Fay's assured, absorbing prose will compel readers with its lush detail, multiple plot twists and keen insight into this politically combustible period of history.”—Aimee Phan, author of The Reeducation of Cherry Truong
“Kim Fay breathes new and original life into the Westerner-in-Asia novel with The Map of Lost Memories, going beyond the intrigues of 1925 Shanghai to the remote reaches of the Cambodian jungle. An enchanting, absorbing first novel, all the more remarkable for its effortless portrayal of a bygone world, now nearly forgotten.”—Nicole Mones, author of Lost in Translation
“The Map of Lost Memories is the best book I have read this year. Exotic, thrilling, and brimming with fascinating historical detail, it had me hooked from page one and sent me to a world I knew existed but never really understood, never really felt, until now. Kim Fay is a wonderful storyteller who truly masters the art of crafting a riveting story with heart and elegance. The result is utterly mesmerizing.”—Anne Fortier, author of Juliet
“Kim Fay writes with such mesmerizing authority that it’s hard to believe that The Map of Lost Memories is her first novel. Rarely do we find a book that combines gripping adventure with exquisitely crafted prose, but Fay’s novel does just that, bringing together the beauty and complexity of Marguerite Duras’s The Lover with the thrilling breathlessness of Indiana Jones. The result is breathtaking.”—Dana Sachs, author of If You Lived Here