- Hardcover: 304 pages
- Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; First Edition edition (January 14, 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0547519273
- ISBN-13: 978-0547519272
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 82 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,187,653 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Hardcover – January 14, 2014
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This happened to him at a train station in India.
The Answer to the Riddle is Me is a memoir covering everything from when David lost his memory at that train station, to events years later when he finally started to get better. More than anything, the book is a tale of struggle and how hard it is to live with something as devastating as forgetting entire sections of your life for good. I can’t stress it enough- David didn’t know ANYTHING when he realized he didn’t know who or where he was. He had to go off of what people told him right then and there. Someone tells him he’s on drugs, which is why he’s freaking out in public, so he assumes he’s a drug addict. Someone tells him he’s gone crazy, so he assumes he’s crazy. Someone offers him cigarettes constantly, so he assumes he’s a smoker. This is all just in another country. When he gets back home, things aren’t any better. David has to learn about his girlfriend he had, another woman that he was flirting with and may have very well been together with while in India, his family and more, all from scratch. Seeing people doesn’t ring any bells, and when he looks at photos of people, he can’t tell if they’re relatives, friends or exes.
It doesn’t help that David also suffers from depression. This is something I had problems with from when I was 12, up until about 6 months ago, and I saw a lot of myself during these parts. Wanting to ask a simple question but not being able to for no reason…it’s so stupid but it’s a very real part of it for a lot of people. There come many times when David could simply ask the person he’s with “hey, what happened?” or “how do you know me?” but he doesn’t. He’s too scared because the him now isn’t who he was then. He used to do college radio, and listening to his old self on recordings, learned that he was a wise guy, and that he often pulled pranks on people or would just make things up. When David emails friends and colleagues about what happened, some of them think he’s making it up and respond to his message in their own would-be humorous way.
The book is made up of a lot of small chapters, most being two or three pages. It’s an easy read, and not hard to remember where you left off if you go a few days without reading it. The only problem I had is, and I feel almost insensitive when I say this given what he went through, there’s not much expression. The book has a very flat tone, even in some the more serious situations. There were parts that I could tell were supposed to be funny, but they weren’t written in a way that even made me smile. Don’t get me wrong- I felt horrible reading of the pain David experienced, but something was always off about the tone. I had to listen to David’s appearance on Duncan’s podcast in order to understand him a little better and see if he was a very serious guy or something else was going on. It turns out that he’s very lively and fun to listen to, but you wouldn’t think that here. I also have to agree with another reviewer who essentially said that the best parts of the book take place in India, first when David loses his memory, and then later on when he comes back. A lot of the stuff that takes place back home or when he moves to another state gets a little repetitive. But I can’t fault him or the book for that since this is how it happened.
Hopefully people who read the book will get something out of it. Be it a greater appreciation for memories and the people around them, or finding out about Lariam, and little things that you don’t hear on the news. Like how huge doses of it were given to prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, despite them having no signs of malaria and not being in areas where they could have been exposed to it, just to break them down psychologically, making them easier to question/interrogate. This is a solid book worth reading, and won’t take long for most people to go through.
The remaining three quarters of the book goes downhill. It lacks the immediacy and clarity to hold the reader's attention, and meanders off into various complaints and repetitions and you find yourself not caring for this character that you DID care for strongly in the beginning.
Perhaps the current version has been padded out from what was originally a shorter story (it appeared as a paperback in 2012 and as part of a radio program in 2010) to make it "book-length". The inclusion of product names in the text is much more in evidence as the book progresses.
If you buy this book and just read up to the point where he leaves India, you will have had an excellent reading experience, one that stays with you viscerally and changes your perspective on life. The rest is definitely optional. Maybe use the time to go for a walk and appreciate that you DO have memories of your life.
First 1/3 to half was great. I was really hooked and started recommending to everyone around me.
The last 1/3 let me down though. Struggled to get to the finished, just hoping it would end.
This is great for the questions it asked and tried to answer. A theme of questioning yourself is always a good theme. Just poorly executed at the end.