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The Woman Who Can't Forget: The Extraordinary Story of Living with the Most Remarkable Memory Known to Science--A Memoir Hardcover – May 6, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Price has been known to scientists only as AJ, a woman with a memory so unprecedented they had to coin a term for it: hyperthymestic syndrome.With this book, she is coming out publicly for the first time to discuss her condition. Not only is Price powerless to stop remembering, but each memory brings with it an emotion every bit as potent as it was the first day I had it. That means constantly reliving not just the good times—hanging out at the Ed Sullivan Show with her father, a William Morris agent, or having her cheeks pinched by Milton Berle—but the painful times as well. Tormented by her total recall, at age 34 Price contacted memory expert James McGaugh and finally began the process of controlling her memory. Not all the details of Price's life are so compelling, but her insights into the nature of memory, forgetting and the formation of our sense of self will resonate with a wide audience. Appearances on 20/20 May 9 and Good Morning America May 12.(May 6)
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"The Woman Who Can't Forget is fascinating, whether dealing with the details of Price's life or with the science of the brain, offering glimpses not only into the mysteries of memory but into emotional struggles like depression, anger, forgiveness and even growing up." --

"[Price's] insights into the nature of memory, forgetting and the formation of our sense of self will resonate with a wide audience." -- Publishers Weekly

"Price has a knack for vividly rendering childhood memories like scenes from an impressionistic film." -- Kirkus Reviews --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; 1 edition (May 6, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416561765
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416561767
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.8 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,393,790 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Jill's story is extraordinary.
Shannon L. Yarbrough
I picked up this book (in audio format) because if I could have any superpower it would be to remember everything I've ever been taught.
He actually did try to leave her once. the book was boring, but so bad it made for fun reading!

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This is a fascinating glimpse into the world of a person who has a perfect memory. If you feel the slightest bit skeptical about this, Jill Price was put through intensive testing, along with several other people. Not only could she recall exact dates but the tiniest bits of info about what happened on those days, including what amounted to her entire life, way beyond the norms of human memory. She'd also kept a diary for years.

Other people were also tested and diagnosed with this special, probably rare, condition...and this is what makes this book so interesting. Even though Jill Price isn't the only person known to have "perfect recall or memory", her personality is unique. She tends to see her inability to forget as a curse as much as a blessing, one that often haunts and torments her.

I'd read books about other people with a similar condition but they were autistic, sometimes called idiot savants, and often lacked basic skills that were considered normal. Jill Price was the first person who seems normal in many ways but also has this extraordinary memory. I couldn't help wanting to know how a child copes with this and grows up being so different from those around her. This book was a fascinating biography as well as illuminating about the mysteries of memory, recall and the advantages of those with average abilities to remember things. Until I read this book, I often rued my inability to remember a person's name, face or a particular movie title. I've changed my perspective.

Sometimes being able to forget can be a blessing.
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Format: Hardcover
I'm perhaps being a little more generous than some of the two-star reviewers. I did find information about her timeline and some other things interesting, but, contra her own accounts, I don't think her obsessive journaling necessarily has anything to do with her hypermemory. Certainly, it's not a direct part of her hypermemory, or the more technical, hyperthymesia.

Now, might it be part of an obsessive-compulsive personality disorder? Certainly. There's other facets of her life, that if you connect the dots, could one wonder, at least, whether Price doesn't have OCD and/or other mental health issues.

But, she and coauthor Bart Davis don't talk about that.

Nor do they talk about the report of the UCI medical and neurological professionals. After all, Price herself wonders if her hypermemory isn't connected to how she has dealt with her childhood.

Nor does she mention that she has taken Prozac and Zoloft as high as 200mg/day, and that she reported having numerous phobias, including phobias about medical professionals, to McGaugh et al. Or having hit her head at age 8.

Given the studies ongoing of links between PTSD and memory, and the fact that the Neurocase study is readily available on the Internet, it's chintzy at the least to not have discussed these issues in the book.

Available here in full: [...]%22A+Case+of+Unusual+Autobiographical+Remembering%22&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=1&gl=us&client=firefox-a

The full study also mentions some other mental functioning diagnoses; some linguistic problems, including word list problems (hence her memory problems) is one; perseveration is another, and it's linked to brain trauma.
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Shannon L. Yarbrough VINE VOICE on May 9, 2008
Format: Hardcover
We all have days we wish we could forget. If we think back, I'm sure we also have memories that have escaped us from long ago which we wish we could remember.

Jill Price is a unique person, the first, who can honestly say she can't forget a single day, and has little or no problem with those memories the rest of us cling to.

Jill has a memory condition called "hyperthymestic syndrome" and believe it or not she can recall headlines, deaths, birthdays, holidays, tragedies, worldwide news, and even her own everyday activities from every single day of her life since she was just 14 years old.

In a recent interview with Diane Sawyer, Jill gave the dates and days of the week certain events happened that Diane called out at random from the death of Elvis to the date of Reagan's first inauguration. She is not always 100% right, but is usually not off by more than 7 days. Imagine being able to recall every single Christmas you've experienced, and all from memory.

Jill's story is extraordinary. As you read her memoir, you'll ask yourself, "is this a curse or a blessing?" Is it a gift you'd want to be blessed with? Jill has adjusted well to it. Her life has been unique. She has loved and lost. Scientists have studied her, but through it all she has learned to cope and adapt to this bizarre wonder.

You will be touched by her words, and you certainly won't forget them!
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Nancy S. West on October 29, 2008
Format: Hardcover
"Time heals all wounds." "This too shall pass." "Give it time." "Someday we'll look back on this and laugh." Our most fundamental beliefs about emotional healing are based on the idea that memories dull as time passes. Just as shards of broken glass can cut deeply when new but, if tossed in the surf, eventually become smooth and beautifully textured, our memories, as they age, become buffered. The kernel of the story may remain, but the glass-sharp edges of emotion associated with the event dull over time.

Which is a good thing, because imagine for a moment the mental chaos if they didn't. Well, that's the story of Jill Price, the real-life Woman Who Can't Forget. With a memory so unusual in its form and function that the neurologists who documented her situation made up a new name for it, hyperthemestic syndrome, Jill Price remembers everything that has happened to her since childhood with the clarity of seeing it unfold on a movie screen. Day after day. All the time.

The memory center of Jill Price's brain is wired differently from most of us, with aberrations that actually show up on brain scans. Her memory type is specific: she isn't like Rain Man, remembering sequences of numbers or bits of trivia. What she remembers is events from her own life, or events of public importance inasmuch as they dovetailed with her own life. You probably remember exactly what you were doing the moment you heard that two planes had hit the World Trade Center or that a government building had exploded in Oklahoma City - or, depending on your age, that the space shuttle Challenger had exploded or that President Kennedy had been shot.
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