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The Shimmering State

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Jennifer Egan’s cool, transcendent prose meets Karen Thompson Walker’s speculative eye in this luminous literary debut following two patients in recovery after an experimental memory drug warps their lives. Lucien moves to Los Angeles to be with his grandmother as she undergoes an experimental memory treatment for Alzheimer’s using the new drug, Memoroxin. An emerging photo Jennifer Egan’s cool, transcendent prose meets Karen Thompson Walker’s speculative eye in this luminous literary debut following two patients in recovery after an experimental memory drug warps their lives. Lucien moves to Los Angeles to be with his grandmother as she undergoes an experimental memory treatment for Alzheimer’s using the new drug, Memoroxin. An emerging photographer, he’s running from the sudden death of his mother, a well-known abstract expressionist painter. Even far from New York, her legacy haunts Lucien. Sophie has just been cast as a lead in the upcoming performance of La Sylphide with the Los Angeles Ballet. She still waitresses during her off-hours at the Chateau Marmont, witnessing the recreational use of Mem pills among the Hollywood elite—people consuming memories not their own. One controlling, powerful regular’s obsession with Sophie spurs a series of events that threatens to unravel the life she has so carefully built. When Lucien and Sophie meet at The Center, founded by the ambitious yet conflicted Dr. Angelica Sloane as a way to treat patients who’ve abused Mem, they have no memory of how they got there—or why they feel so inexplicably drawn to one another. Is it attraction, or something they cannot remember from “before”? Set in a city that seems to have no memory of its own, The Shimmering State is a graceful meditation on the power of story and its creation. It masterfully explores memory and how it can elude us, trap us, or set us free.


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Jennifer Egan’s cool, transcendent prose meets Karen Thompson Walker’s speculative eye in this luminous literary debut following two patients in recovery after an experimental memory drug warps their lives. Lucien moves to Los Angeles to be with his grandmother as she undergoes an experimental memory treatment for Alzheimer’s using the new drug, Memoroxin. An emerging photo Jennifer Egan’s cool, transcendent prose meets Karen Thompson Walker’s speculative eye in this luminous literary debut following two patients in recovery after an experimental memory drug warps their lives. Lucien moves to Los Angeles to be with his grandmother as she undergoes an experimental memory treatment for Alzheimer’s using the new drug, Memoroxin. An emerging photographer, he’s running from the sudden death of his mother, a well-known abstract expressionist painter. Even far from New York, her legacy haunts Lucien. Sophie has just been cast as a lead in the upcoming performance of La Sylphide with the Los Angeles Ballet. She still waitresses during her off-hours at the Chateau Marmont, witnessing the recreational use of Mem pills among the Hollywood elite—people consuming memories not their own. One controlling, powerful regular’s obsession with Sophie spurs a series of events that threatens to unravel the life she has so carefully built. When Lucien and Sophie meet at The Center, founded by the ambitious yet conflicted Dr. Angelica Sloane as a way to treat patients who’ve abused Mem, they have no memory of how they got there—or why they feel so inexplicably drawn to one another. Is it attraction, or something they cannot remember from “before”? Set in a city that seems to have no memory of its own, The Shimmering State is a graceful meditation on the power of story and its creation. It masterfully explores memory and how it can elude us, trap us, or set us free.

30 review for The Shimmering State

  1. 4 out of 5

    Will Byrnes

    Doesn’t the body remember, even after the mind has been wiped clean? The Shimmering State opens with a quote from Proust about the only true voyage being to see with other people’s eyes. What if you could? Meredith Westgate gives this notion a go, using a sci-fi perspective to imagine a real world application. A means has been crafted by which researchers can download memories, and store the contents in pill form. The science? Don’t ask. Memoroxin was developed with benign intent, to help peop Doesn’t the body remember, even after the mind has been wiped clean? The Shimmering State opens with a quote from Proust about the only true voyage being to see with other people’s eyes. What if you could? Meredith Westgate gives this notion a go, using a sci-fi perspective to imagine a real world application. A means has been crafted by which researchers can download memories, and store the contents in pill form. The science? Don’t ask. Memoroxin was developed with benign intent, to help people. Alzheimer’s patients struggling with memory could, in a controlled environment, take a series of pills, each filled with their downloaded memories, and re-live them, remember their own lives more clearly, hopefully improving their overall ability to remember. And then there are folks with traumas that have proven resistant to the usual treatments. Soldiers suffering PTSD, victims of violent assault, or abuse. Memoroxin therapy allows the caregivers to download all of a person’s memories, essentially reformat a person’s brain, then restore the load, sans the bad parts. Think bringing your virus-infected computer in to the relevant shop. How can they see, or know what memory is which, where one ends and another begins? Don’t ask. How do neurological bits and bytes find their way from the digestive system to the memory-holding parts? How is that dodgy blood-brain barrier impediment surmounted? Don’t ask. The science is not the thing here, just the notion. Meredith Westgate - image from The Seventh Wave – shot by Maurizio Pesce But for every good thing there is a dark side. What if well-intentioned science was used for bad reasons, personal entertainment, say. Heroin, for example, was given its name because it was thought to be a heroic solution for those addicted to opium. What sort of rush might one get from having someone else’s memories present? Might you take on some collateral bits in addition to simple memory? What if you find out things you would be better off not knowing? What if you see things you would be better off not seeing? ”…to truly leave yourself, the one place you can never escape, and to experience a moment as someone else. That is the ultimate luxury.” Which makes one wonder how, if success is something of such value, so many of the successful seek to escape themselves. Sophie is a dancer from Minneapolis. Lucien is a photographer from Brooklyn. She is in LA to begin her professional career. He is working on a project of treated photos of his mother, a famous artist recently dead from cancer. We first meet both of them in rehab, a facility for treating people who have abused Memoroxin or been harmed by it. Lucien was in LA to help take care of his grandmother, who is in failing health. He regrets not having attended more to her in the past and is determined to do better. He is overwhelmed with feelings of loss for his mother, though. She was a huge factor in his life, but she was always focused on her work. He misses her now, but he has been missing her his whole life. Wanting to get more of his mother than he ever could while she was alive, Lucien takes some of grandma’s Memoroxin. He holds it, his grandmother’s life, between two fingers. He is sad for Florence [grandma], so trapped inside her body. Her life lost while still alive. But he is also jealous. She disappears into moments where his mother still lives, and where he exists, before all this. What could be the harm, in seeing what she sees? What damage would it do her to share? He needs to see her again. Just once would be enough. Yeah, you keep on thinkin’ that, Sparky. Sophie gets a great job, then runs into a stream of shit luck, and bad or uncaring people, and is dragged under. While the primary POVs here are Lucien and Sophie, there is a third perspective, from Dr. Angelica Sloane, one of the researchers who developed the drug and who now runs the rehab facility in which both Lucien and Sophie reside. She has a story of her own, with some complications. While interesting in its own right, I did not think this added a lot to the central tale beyond giving us some more reasons why taking Mem is a bad idea. Structurally, the novel looks at one character in the present, Today, at the rehab center, then peels back a layer of their history, Before. It is clear early on that Luc and Soph had had a connection before their brains got freeze-dried. If only one or both of them could remember what that was. The primary focus of the novel is the personal experience of memory-downloading tech, but Memoroxin is not the only shimmering thing (the pills literally shimmer) under consideration. California as a shimmering state also comes in for some attention. It is the only state where Mem is legal, for one, suggesting that the story is about Cali’s place in our imagination and memory. Westgate looks at the more specific Los Angeles experience, the wealth of creatives working in very non-creative jobs to get by, predation by those with power, and entitled fecklessness by the in-crowd, who think of Mem as the next cool drug. Sophie works in an exclusive restaurant, at Chateau Marmont, while building her dance career, so has to endure seeing these creatures in their natural habitat. Lucien’s mother had been involved in early Hollywood, so we get a taste of some of the mirage-ry (and extreme unfairness) of that time. Lucien and Sophie, in their Befores, encounter plenty of posers, way too many people with excellent teeth, nicely toned muscles, and beautifully tanned skin, people with hustles, but no souls. This gives us the best line in the book, for my money - Los Angeles, a city of extras. There are also some observations about East Coasters who flicker back and forth between coasts, truly part of neither. Westgate lives in Brooklyn now, but has lived in LA, so I expect she knows of what she writes, having encountered many such folks. It is generally held that our identity, who we truly are, is very much tied up with our memories. Lose your memories and you lose yourself. Thus the general terror about Alzheimer’s, a disease that whittles away memory, presenting an existential threat to us all. It is no surprise that stories that focus on the malleability of memory trigger our fear receptors, and gain out attention. If you add someone else’s memories do you become someone else, or less yourself? There is a whole Wikipedia page on fiction dealing with memory erasure and alteration. I leave you to explore that on your own. Suffice it to say there are many more titles there than I could ever remember. Such concerns have been present in film, TV, and literature for a long time, even slipping into entertainments that use them in a supporting way. Think Men in Black zapping those who have seen things they should not have. Similar memory-wiping takes place in The Incredibles 2. Sometimes memory is the focus. In Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, for example, a man and a woman have the memory of their failed relationship wiped clean. Total Recall concerns itself with implanted memories. West World serves up a smorgasbord of memory issues. A 2019 novel, The Binding, posited a world in which one could go to a binder to have specific memories removed and locked up inside a book. And multiple personality (Dissociative Identity Disorder) tales offer a whole other track. What The Shimmering State focuses on, aside from the obvious connection between Lucien and Sophie, is how people might be affected by other people’s memories. Lucien is impacted by the family history he sees. Sophie has a much darker experience. Does anyone really want to see the world through the eyes of, say, a moron? There are supporting conversations, references and imagery throughout. Sophie gets a starring role in the ballet La Sylphide, which is a tale of, among other things, the appeal of the unknown and dangerous. Sophie totes around a copy of a seminal autobiography by Martha Graham, her dance muse. For Graham, “blood memory” is the innate knowledge we have of the physical experiences lived by our ancestors. - from the Garage Museum siteBut what does it all matter if we don’t care or relate enough to at least one of our leads to keep us turning the pages? While I would not put either character portrayal on the top tier, they were both relatable enough to merit the investment of some reading time. Sophie is hard-working, and offers us a painful perspective on the crap women have to take, and the misery some inflict on themselves. She was the more fully realized of the pair, maybe for her connection to the real world. I did take issue with one particular decision she made that seemed out of character to me, and not very smart. Don’t read this if you have not read the book. (view spoiler)[After having had the Mem equivalent of a bad trip, her response to the lingering effects is to believe that hair of the dog would somehow make it better. Are you kidding me? (hide spoiler)] Lucien seemed more singularly concerned with his mother and grandmother. While that may make him a decent guy, it also made him feel a bit flat as a character. There is one redemptive scene late in the book portraying how he sees, artistically, that worked wonderfully to counterbalance that. Bottom line is that the The Shimmering State offers a fascinating concept, carried along by a romantic connection between two people with obvious chemistry. It also offers a look at the LA arts scene, well, parts of it, anyway, and provides food for thought on what it might be like to see life, or even yourself, through the eyes of others. Of course, we see the world through someone else’s eyes every time we read a book. I expect you won’t mind seeing it through the eyes of Meredith Westgate. And if it doesn’t work out, well, there are solutions for that. Review posted – August 6, 2021 Publication date – August 10, 2021 I received an ARE of The Shimmering State from Atria, but for the life of me I cannot remember when or how this happened. Thanks to MG. Re the stars, really 3.5, but rounded up for interesting content =============================EXTRA STUFF Book Launch on August 11 at the Powerhouse, a major indie bookstore in DUMBO in Brooklyn. Links to the author’s personal, FB, Instagram, Tumblr, and Twitter pages Items of Interest from the author -----Joyland - Chilean Fruit Bats - a short story by Westgate, from 2018 -----Joyland - Just Visiting - a short story by Westgate, from 2016 -----Amos Herr House - Emma’s Diaries - on the diaries of an early twentieth century resident of this Lancaster, PA historical home -----Girls at the Library - For Those “End of Days” Days (aka After Reading The News) - Westgate’s review of Tracy K. Smith’s book of poems, Life on Mars -----The Seventh Wave - “Oh, Galileo” - story by Westgate - 2017 Items of Interest -----Litscape - To _. (What can I do to drive away). by John Keats – Sophie quotes from it in Chapter 16 -----Nature - Memory editing from science fiction to clinical practice by Elizabeth Phelps – definitely check this out – it is alarming! -----Wiki on Chateau Marmont, where Sophie works when not dancing - a glitterati hotspot -----Pioneertown, CA a site used in many a Hollywood film, and in a fictional film of significance in the book – mentioned in Chapter 32 -----Garage Museum - A page on Blood Memory, an autobiography of Martha Graham that Sophie swears by Makes me think of -----The Binding - a 2019 novel by Bridget Collins - erasing memories -----Wiki on the 2004 film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind - erasing memories -----Wiki for the 2018 film The Incredibles 2 - erasing memories -----Wiki for the 1997 film Men in Black - erasing memories -----Wiki on the 1990 film Total Recall - implanting memories -----Wiki for the 2016 show Westworld ----------See also, from Psychology Today - Narrative Consciousness, Memory, and PTSD in Westworld -----Wiki for the 2019 film Frozen 2 re memories being present in water (they are not)

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader

    How about this gorgeous cover? The shimmery rainbowness of it makes my inner 80s child so happy. There’s a gorgeous story inside, too. The Shimmering State is a genre mash-up- dystopian, a touch sci fi, a dash of fantasy maybe. It’s probably easiest to call it speculative? But even with that, it feels completely realistic throughout, and those are my favorite types of stories in this genre blend. Lucien’s grandmother is having an experimental memory treatment for Alzheimer’s, which includes a new How about this gorgeous cover? The shimmery rainbowness of it makes my inner 80s child so happy. There’s a gorgeous story inside, too. The Shimmering State is a genre mash-up- dystopian, a touch sci fi, a dash of fantasy maybe. It’s probably easiest to call it speculative? But even with that, it feels completely realistic throughout, and those are my favorite types of stories in this genre blend. Lucien’s grandmother is having an experimental memory treatment for Alzheimer’s, which includes a new drug, Memoroxin. Lucien is a photographer, and his mother recently passed away in New York. He flees to Los Angeles to be by his grandmother’s side as she undergoes this treatment. Sophie is a dancer with the Los Angeles Ballet, and she’s been cast as the lead. In the circles she’s in, people are abusing the drug, also known as Mem. Lucien and Sophie’s paths cross at The Center, a treatment hub for people who have abused Mem. The two have no idea why they are there or if they know each other from a previous time or place. The Shimmering State is a thoughtful and interesting look at addiction, love of family, romantic love, and memory; how it shapes us and can harm or deceive us. It has a philosophical flair, if you go there, where you can find the depth to it and would be a fun one to discuss because of that. The writing is as beautiful as that cover. I’m already looking forward to Meredith Westgate’s next book! I received a gifted copy. Many of my reviews can also be found on my blog: www.jennifertarheelreader.com and instagram: www.instagram.com/tarheelreader

  3. 5 out of 5

    Meredith Westgate

    I must've read this book thirty times! I must've read this book thirty times!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Mel

    One of the most inventive and singular debuts I have read in a long time- I inhaled every crumb of this iridescent novel. I have seen ample comparisons to Black Mirror in other reviews, but for me if I had to liken The Shimmering State to anything, I’d say it’s a mix between Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and My Year of Rest and Relaxation. Cerebral, with a whisper of romance and dystopian sci-fi, the story is told primarily from the perspective of three characters: Dr. Sloane, founder of One of the most inventive and singular debuts I have read in a long time- I inhaled every crumb of this iridescent novel. I have seen ample comparisons to Black Mirror in other reviews, but for me if I had to liken The Shimmering State to anything, I’d say it’s a mix between Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and My Year of Rest and Relaxation. Cerebral, with a whisper of romance and dystopian sci-fi, the story is told primarily from the perspective of three characters: Dr. Sloane, founder of the Center, a rehab facility for people who have abused the new drug “Memoxorin” - a medical time capsule that floods the user with the pill’s stored memories. Memoxorin or “Mem”, is approved for use in psychiatric treatment of trauma, depression, and Alzheimers, but has become increasingly popular for recreational users wanting to experience the rush of Olympic ski jumping firsthand, or hold on to a lost loved one. The book also follows two patients at the Center. Lucien, a photographer and grieving son, who makes the move from NYC to LA following the loss of his artist mother to take care of his grandmother. Sophie, a dancer on the cusp of the type of success that would allow her to quit her serving job at the Chateau Mormont and leave all the wide-eyed tourists and leering Hollywood executive clientele behind. Westgate’s prose is a swirling sensory delight, much like the opalescent Mem pills that serve as both the central hero and villain of the story. The novel is told through two alternating timelines “Before” and “Today” detailing the tragedies that led Lucien and Sophie to the Center, and the work that’s done to shed them of their cycle of Mem abuse and emerge “healed”. Westgate raises fascinating ethical questions about trauma and memory - are we truly better off scrubbing our most horrific moments from our minds? Dr. Sloane’s arc was perhaps my favourite of the three central characters, detailing the fine line between wielding and abusing the god-like power to alter memory. While the Center was surely founded on altruistic foundations, in reality lines blur and Mem as a medical treatment proves to be controversial at best, prone to fatal flaws at worse. This was one of my favourite reading experiences of the year so far (Atria keeps knocking it out of the park for me!) and I am now dedicated to manifesting a Charlie Kaufman or Yorgos Lanthimos film adaptation. Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing me an ARC in exchange for my honest review.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Bandit

    Seems I’m the first person to actually write a review about this book and it’s actually kind of a tough one to review. The immediate appeal was there, experimental memory thing straight out of a Black Mirror episode, the sunny California straight out of my dreams. But then, the actual reading of the story dragged for some reason. It’s difficult to put a finger on it, the writing itself was very good, but something about the pacing was off. But then in the end somehow it managed to get to a plac Seems I’m the first person to actually write a review about this book and it’s actually kind of a tough one to review. The immediate appeal was there, experimental memory thing straight out of a Black Mirror episode, the sunny California straight out of my dreams. But then, the actual reading of the story dragged for some reason. It’s difficult to put a finger on it, the writing itself was very good, but something about the pacing was off. But then in the end somehow it managed to get to a place where you leave off the book with a sort of joy or, at least, effervescence and that’s a great emotion to walk away on. So why the emotional yoyoing? Did I come to care about the two lovelorn addicts who can’t manage to remember and can’t seem to forget each other? Yeah, probably. It’s that kind of a love story. Not a romance, that brings to mind romance as a genre, which is all sorts of no no. But a story of a genuine connection formed in a disconnected city addled by a disconnected mentality in a near future world of driverless cars and memory stimulants that get misused and prove irresistibly addictive or addictively irresistible. The idea was to help people with memory problems, etc. but like so many good ideas it got subverted. People always on a lookout for new thrills find one in Mem, becoming other people and by extension less of themselves. The two protagonists of the novel, to be fair, don’t come to it looking for thrills, life kind of throws it at them. They end up in a same facility operated by a woman with her own difficult connection to Mem and we slowly learn about their stories and their connection through various flashbacks. The entire plot is very interconnected, people going in and out of each other’s lives, mentally and physically. And I suppose spiritually too, since they in a way absorb the spirit of others through memories. It’s very LA, glitzy, frantically alive and yet somehow disconnected, free of sidewalks and soul. The title can, cleverly, be applied to either California or the way a person is on Mem, both states shimmer. The lure too much to resist, yet too ephemeral to rely on. It’s a lovely novel, really, almost elegiac in tone, with an undeniable albeit very leisurely beauty to it. And it’s a lovely meditation of the very nature of memory, in the way it shapes people and their connections, in the meaning placed on it and the things worth holding on to. It draws a variety of parallels, thing connected of memory, like grief and guilt and love and regret and sadness. And in the end, maybe, to accept and release, in gratitude. Much like the main characters, in their own ways. So I liked the message and appreciated the style, and while it didn’t quite sing for me at all times (too slow? Too LA?), it was memorable enough…which is appropriate. Thanks Netgalley.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Gabi

    Again, a difficult book for me to rate. The story is about drugs that can store some memories of people. Initially used to help Altzheimer patients to get some of their memories back in controlled sessions or to relief trauma patients from their toxic memories. Of course it soon is misused as a hip party drug. The prose is quite skillful and beautiful. There were many moments where I simply enjoyed the phrasing. The idea as such is very interesting as well. There is no attempt at explanation of ho Again, a difficult book for me to rate. The story is about drugs that can store some memories of people. Initially used to help Altzheimer patients to get some of their memories back in controlled sessions or to relief trauma patients from their toxic memories. Of course it soon is misused as a hip party drug. The prose is quite skillful and beautiful. There were many moments where I simply enjoyed the phrasing. The idea as such is very interesting as well. There is no attempt at explanation of how this actually should work on a scientific/physiological level, but that's not the point of the story and at least for me this was no problem at all. But something was off with the general pacing of the writing. I can not put my finger on it. For once set in the L.A. artists' community the setting was not apt to evoke my interest, but that of course is a me-problem. Yet aside from that the story felt rather dragging after the interesting first part and was more about the psychological problems of the two protagonists. Again, per se nothing bad, but ... well, as I said, I can't exactly pinpoint my problem. It just didn't work for me the way I thought it would do.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kyle

    The Shimmering State was captivating–– hypnotic, unsettling, perceptive, brilliant! Meredith Westgate’s prose is gorgeous and evocative, and she’s eerily precise in her observations of both New York and LA and how those cities’ natives present themselves. The premise is very clever and feels so resonant as to be predictive; in an experimental Alzheimer’s treatment called Memoroxin, they can download a person’s whole life in memories, and then re-deliver them to the patient in pill form to help b The Shimmering State was captivating–– hypnotic, unsettling, perceptive, brilliant! Meredith Westgate’s prose is gorgeous and evocative, and she’s eerily precise in her observations of both New York and LA and how those cities’ natives present themselves. The premise is very clever and feels so resonant as to be predictive; in an experimental Alzheimer’s treatment called Memoroxin, they can download a person’s whole life in memories, and then re-deliver them to the patient in pill form to help bring their memory back. But the circles of the privileged start abusing these pills as a way to escape into another’s life for a few hours. The story unfolds in the present in a recovery center for those who have abused Mem, and we go also peek backward in the lives of two of the patients, a photographer and a ballet dancer, as well as the lead doctor at the center. The blurb from Helen Schulman called it “surprisingly romantic” and after finishing, I felt the same way–– it was a surprisingly tender and love-soaked debut, though the way we found ourselves there was unconventional and exciting. This was such an absorbing novel, I hated all my other life obligations for existing while I read. I was frequently surprised by what unfolded, which was a thrilling and cinematic experience. Powerful meditations on love (familial and romantic) and the devotion and obligation that come with it, as well as power and those who misuse it.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Nicole

    I wasn't sure if I would like this when I started reading it but I was pleasantly surprised. The concept was interesting and covered addiction in a very different way. There were a lot of places where I paused to think about what I just read. I liked Sophie and Lucien as characters and cared about what happened to them. I really liked the ending. 4.5 stars because I would have liked more resolution in the Dr. Sloane/Remy subplot. Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the ARC. I wasn't sure if I would like this when I started reading it but I was pleasantly surprised. The concept was interesting and covered addiction in a very different way. There were a lot of places where I paused to think about what I just read. I liked Sophie and Lucien as characters and cared about what happened to them. I really liked the ending. 4.5 stars because I would have liked more resolution in the Dr. Sloane/Remy subplot. Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the ARC.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Patricia

    I could not finish this novel. I got to page 200 and had to quit.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen

    An original premise nestled in beautifully written prose.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Shawna

    I really enjoyed this book. I liked the show Black Mirror and saw someone else compared this book to an episode and I completely agree. Very futuristic but yet not that far off concept.

  12. 5 out of 5

    books_by_bethany

    3.5 Stars. Lucien, a photographer from New York, has recently moved to Los Angelos to assist his grandmother who is struggling with Alzheimer’s and undergoing memory treatment using the new drug, Memoroxin. Sophie is a promising ballerina and an upscale waitress on the side who regularly witnesses the rich and famous using Memoroxin recreationally. A series of events lead Sophie and Lucien to meeting as patients recovering at “The Center”, with no memory of what led them there. First of all, thi 3.5 Stars. Lucien, a photographer from New York, has recently moved to Los Angelos to assist his grandmother who is struggling with Alzheimer’s and undergoing memory treatment using the new drug, Memoroxin. Sophie is a promising ballerina and an upscale waitress on the side who regularly witnesses the rich and famous using Memoroxin recreationally. A series of events lead Sophie and Lucien to meeting as patients recovering at “The Center”, with no memory of what led them there. First of all, this iridescent, shimmering cover is one of the most unique and beautiful covers I have ever seen! In regard to the actual story—that was incredibly unique as well! Alternating between “Today” and “Before”, the novel tells the story of both Sophie and Lucien in the two timelines. The premise of this memory drug causing you to experience your own memories, or memories of someone else when abused, was extremely creative and intriguing. My one issue would be that the pacing seemed off—some parts were overly wordy, while others felt underdeveloped, and there was just something missing preventing it from quite being 4 stars. Overall, it was a thought-provoking, original book, and it’s worth checking out if you like something out of the ordinary! Thank you so much to Atria Books for my gifted copy!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Michelle (bookishinthebay)

    I finished this book exactly where Sophie and Lucien’s journeys ended. Or where they began again. In the beautiful and ethereal desert of Joshua Tree, where the heat restores and rejuvenates the soul. Reading this felt so synchronous to my actual life; Pioneertown, Pappy & Harriet’s, Joshua Tree, Lucien grieving the loss of his mother as I am still processing the loss of my father. Would I also choose to take a shimmering pill - Mem - in order to fully immerse myself in memories of my father? Wo I finished this book exactly where Sophie and Lucien’s journeys ended. Or where they began again. In the beautiful and ethereal desert of Joshua Tree, where the heat restores and rejuvenates the soul. Reading this felt so synchronous to my actual life; Pioneertown, Pappy & Harriet’s, Joshua Tree, Lucien grieving the loss of his mother as I am still processing the loss of my father. Would I also choose to take a shimmering pill - Mem - in order to fully immerse myself in memories of my father? Would you? But then there’s the other side to it - would you immerse yourself in memories that weren’t your own just for the high? The Shimmering State - the state of my memories, fuzzy around the edges, always sunny, iridescent. The Shimmering State - California. Standing on the cliffs watching the ocean meet the sand, how bright and blue and clear your skies are, your infinite deserts and their star-filled nights, the way the sky turns a brilliant shade of pinks and oranges right before the sun dips below the horizon. This book ripped me apart and then stitched me back together. It was everything I didn’t know I needed, at a time when I needed it the most. Out August 10th. Thank you Atria Books for the ARC!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Kyra Johnson

    Set in LA in the near-distant future, people are abusing the experimental drug Memoroxin or “Mem” which is meant to flood Alzheimer’s patients with their own lost memories. When Mem is misused, there can be serious side effects. Our protagonists Lucien and Sophie find themselves at The Center, a rehab for people who’ve abused Mem and lost themselves in the process. THE SHIMMERING STATE is a haunting and captivating debut. The premise behind this book is fascinating and eerily plausible. Westgate’ Set in LA in the near-distant future, people are abusing the experimental drug Memoroxin or “Mem” which is meant to flood Alzheimer’s patients with their own lost memories. When Mem is misused, there can be serious side effects. Our protagonists Lucien and Sophie find themselves at The Center, a rehab for people who’ve abused Mem and lost themselves in the process. THE SHIMMERING STATE is a haunting and captivating debut. The premise behind this book is fascinating and eerily plausible. Westgate’s lyrical prose gives this heavily character and thought-driven story a dream-like quality. The perspectives alternate between Lucien, Sophie, and Dr. Angelica Sloane and I loved how Westgate weaved in their backstories to slowly reveal their characters. This is a brilliant exploration of addiction, trauma, human connection and the power of memories. I highly recommend for fans of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind or Black Mirror. 🧠 Thank you so much Atria Books for my #gifted copy!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Robyn

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I enjoyed the (expected) similarity to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, but found the book hard to read. Be mindful of triggers for self-harm, suicide, and what I can only describe as extremely violent intrusive thoughts.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Nicole

    I was fortunate to receive an advanced copy of this novel from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The Shimmering State is the story of Lucien and Sophie, and their addiction to Memoroxin, a drug which enables people to experience their own memories. Lucien is a photographer who has recently moved from New York to LA to assist in the care of his grandmother suffering from Alzheimer's disease. Sophie is an aspiring ballerina with the Los Angeles Ballet Company. Lucien and Sophie "meet" eac I was fortunate to receive an advanced copy of this novel from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The Shimmering State is the story of Lucien and Sophie, and their addiction to Memoroxin, a drug which enables people to experience their own memories. Lucien is a photographer who has recently moved from New York to LA to assist in the care of his grandmother suffering from Alzheimer's disease. Sophie is an aspiring ballerina with the Los Angeles Ballet Company. Lucien and Sophie "meet" each other at The Center, a rehabilitation center where they are treated for their addictions with the very drug that they had been abusing. When Lucien suspects he has met Sophie before, the reader gets a glimpse into their complicated history and their lives before Memoroxin gripped them. The plot and subject matter were original and interesting, but the book was very slow-paced and at times seemed rather disorganized. It was difficult to connect with any of the characters and I actually found the majority of them pretty unlikeable. Overall, I found the idea of Memoroxin and its uses very intriguing but was underwhelmed upon finishing this book.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Winyen

    I was halfway through the book when I realized I didn't really want to continue, but I was too far in. I found the lack of propulsion or urgency in the novel draining. Just because the characters don't know what's going on, doesn't mean the reader shouldn't know what is actually happening. Maybe I just hate the tense the author was using. It also grated me how bland the characters were: straight white presumably thin and beautiful. But, I guess it's LA. I wish I cared about the characters instead I was halfway through the book when I realized I didn't really want to continue, but I was too far in. I found the lack of propulsion or urgency in the novel draining. Just because the characters don't know what's going on, doesn't mean the reader shouldn't know what is actually happening. Maybe I just hate the tense the author was using. It also grated me how bland the characters were: straight white presumably thin and beautiful. But, I guess it's LA. I wish I cared about the characters instead of this detached pity.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Grace Edwards

    Such a clever name. The shimmering state referring to both the effects of the drug and the magical appeal of Cali masking a more shallow reality of the city of stars. These characters all seemed to be in search of something, using artificial means to get it. That same idea, I think, also applies to the lure of LA. I lost the story in the middle, but it picked back up again at the end. The writing was beautiful especially with the imagery during the characters' dream states. It's a slow-paced rea Such a clever name. The shimmering state referring to both the effects of the drug and the magical appeal of Cali masking a more shallow reality of the city of stars. These characters all seemed to be in search of something, using artificial means to get it. That same idea, I think, also applies to the lure of LA. I lost the story in the middle, but it picked back up again at the end. The writing was beautiful especially with the imagery during the characters' dream states. It's a slow-paced read but the message is genuine so I give it 4 shimmering stars. Thank you to NetGalley and Atria Books for an arc of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Candace

    At first I wasn't sure whether this novel was going to grab me, but then, it did. The premise is intriguing: there's a new drug developed for people with Alzheimer's that captures people's memories and then delivers them to those same people in pill form. Naturally, the drug is craved by people who want to delve into the lives of others. Lucien's recent loss of his mother leads him to take his grandmother's pills, so he can remember his mother as his grandmother does. Sophie has someone else's At first I wasn't sure whether this novel was going to grab me, but then, it did. The premise is intriguing: there's a new drug developed for people with Alzheimer's that captures people's memories and then delivers them to those same people in pill form. Naturally, the drug is craved by people who want to delve into the lives of others. Lucien's recent loss of his mother leads him to take his grandmother's pills, so he can remember his mother as his grandmother does. Sophie has someone else's memories forced on her by a manipulator who plays with the drug. Both find themselves at the Center, where a questionable psychiatrist helps people reject other's memories and regain their own. By far the most compelling parts of the novel are Lucien's memories as his grandmother Florence, as he lives her life filled with surprises he never knew about. Sophie's story is grittier but less satisfying. There's a partially developed tangent about the doctor's entry into her daughter's memories that has the possibility of exploring the manipulative side of these drugs, but it is not fleshed out. The exploration of someone else's memories could be a cluttered mess, but Meredith Westgate keeps them crisp and enthralling. She's a good writer and I look forward to where her imagination takes her--and us--next. Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for access to this title in exchange for an honest review~

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jackie Taylor

    Thank you to both #NetGalley and Atria Books for providing me an advance copy of Meredith Westgate’s futuristic novel, The Shimmering State, in exchange for an honest review. #TheShimmeringState is a slow burn of a read with an intriguing premise and gorgeous prose. Although the pacing was a bit too sluggish for my taste, the author did a good job of making the reader feel as if they were in a dreamlike state (a shimmer if you will) throughout the relevant passages. I really wanted to love this n Thank you to both #NetGalley and Atria Books for providing me an advance copy of Meredith Westgate’s futuristic novel, The Shimmering State, in exchange for an honest review. #TheShimmeringState is a slow burn of a read with an intriguing premise and gorgeous prose. Although the pacing was a bit too sluggish for my taste, the author did a good job of making the reader feel as if they were in a dreamlike state (a shimmer if you will) throughout the relevant passages. I really wanted to love this novel because the concept and many of the conversations are pertinent to modern day issues and offer potential solutions to medical conditions like Alzheimer’s disease, but I struggled to connect to the characters. Also, once I took a break from reading for the day, it was hard to dive back into it again. Ultimately, I think the book is thought-provoking and the author has a bright future in terms of her technical writing style, but the story failed to deliver what I envisioned from the book blurb.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Eduvigues Cruz

    Yes this book took me forever to read. No it was not because it was not good. It was GREAT! A solid 4.5 stars. The storyline is unique. The story sucked me into the character’s lives and I was fully invested. Meredith’s words are beautiful. So much of this book is highlighted. I would read any book written by her.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Lolly K Dandeneau

    shared via my blog: https://bookstalkerblog.wordpress.com/ 𝐇𝐞 𝐟𝐞𝐞𝐥𝐬 𝐠𝐮𝐢𝐥𝐭𝐲. 𝐇𝐢𝐬 𝐮𝐧𝐬𝐩𝐞𝐚𝐤𝐚𝐛𝐥𝐞 𝐯𝐢𝐨𝐥𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧, 𝐚𝐥𝐥 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐡𝐞 𝐧𝐨𝐰 𝐤𝐧𝐨𝐰𝐬 𝐰𝐢𝐭𝐡𝐨𝐮𝐭 𝐩𝐞𝐫𝐦𝐢𝐬𝐬𝐢𝐨𝐧. 𝐁𝐮𝐭 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐞’𝐬 𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐦𝐨𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫; 𝐚𝐯𝐚𝐢𝐥𝐚𝐛𝐥𝐞 𝐭𝐨 𝐡𝐢𝐦, 𝐚𝐥𝐢𝐯𝐞 𝐚𝐠𝐚𝐢𝐧 𝐚𝐭 𝐚𝐧𝐲 𝐦𝐨𝐦𝐞𝐧𝐭, 𝐢𝐧 𝐚𝐥𝐥 𝐚𝐠𝐞𝐬. 𝐇𝐞 𝐜𝐚𝐧𝐧𝐨𝐭 𝐛𝐞𝐚𝐫 𝐭𝐡𝐨𝐬𝐞 𝐦𝐨𝐦𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐬 𝐚𝐫𝐞 𝐛𝐞𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐰𝐚𝐬𝐭𝐞𝐝 𝐨𝐧 𝐬𝐨𝐦𝐞𝐨𝐧𝐞 𝐰𝐡𝐨 𝐝𝐨𝐞𝐬𝐧’𝐭 𝐫𝐞𝐦𝐞𝐦𝐛𝐞𝐫 𝐞𝐧𝐨𝐮𝐠𝐡 𝐭𝐨 𝐦𝐢𝐬𝐬 𝐡𝐞𝐫 𝐢𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐩𝐫𝐞𝐬𝐞𝐧𝐭. An experimental drug, Memoroxin, that shimmers in pill form, is a cutting edge therapy developed to treat Alzheimer’s patients as well as those who have ment shared via my blog: https://bookstalkerblog.wordpress.com/ 𝐇𝐞 𝐟𝐞𝐞𝐥𝐬 𝐠𝐮𝐢𝐥𝐭𝐲. 𝐇𝐢𝐬 𝐮𝐧𝐬𝐩𝐞𝐚𝐤𝐚𝐛𝐥𝐞 𝐯𝐢𝐨𝐥𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧, 𝐚𝐥𝐥 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐡𝐞 𝐧𝐨𝐰 𝐤𝐧𝐨𝐰𝐬 𝐰𝐢𝐭𝐡𝐨𝐮𝐭 𝐩𝐞𝐫𝐦𝐢𝐬𝐬𝐢𝐨𝐧. 𝐁𝐮𝐭 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐞’𝐬 𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐦𝐨𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫; 𝐚𝐯𝐚𝐢𝐥𝐚𝐛𝐥𝐞 𝐭𝐨 𝐡𝐢𝐦, 𝐚𝐥𝐢𝐯𝐞 𝐚𝐠𝐚𝐢𝐧 𝐚𝐭 𝐚𝐧𝐲 𝐦𝐨𝐦𝐞𝐧𝐭, 𝐢𝐧 𝐚𝐥𝐥 𝐚𝐠𝐞𝐬. 𝐇𝐞 𝐜𝐚𝐧𝐧𝐨𝐭 𝐛𝐞𝐚𝐫 𝐭𝐡𝐨𝐬𝐞 𝐦𝐨𝐦𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐬 𝐚𝐫𝐞 𝐛𝐞𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐰𝐚𝐬𝐭𝐞𝐝 𝐨𝐧 𝐬𝐨𝐦𝐞𝐨𝐧𝐞 𝐰𝐡𝐨 𝐝𝐨𝐞𝐬𝐧’𝐭 𝐫𝐞𝐦𝐞𝐦𝐛𝐞𝐫 𝐞𝐧𝐨𝐮𝐠𝐡 𝐭𝐨 𝐦𝐢𝐬𝐬 𝐡𝐞𝐫 𝐢𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐩𝐫𝐞𝐬𝐞𝐧𝐭. An experimental drug, Memoroxin, that shimmers in pill form, is a cutting edge therapy developed to treat Alzheimer’s patients as well as those who have mental illness or other neurological disorders, like PTSD, schizophrenia. The ‘cutting edge treatment’ lead by Dr. Angelica Sloane, uses the patient’s own memories as “an essential tool” to heal them. As with any substance, on the heels of it’s creation the abusers follow. Meet Lucien, a photographer who is still suffering with regrets and massive shame over the loss of his mother and famous artist, Isabel Bennet. She was a free spirit, terrifyingly so, always leaving him waiting for her. If only he could be that open, that liberated, if only he could finish a piece. He is caring for his grandmother in LA, as she undergoes treatment for her deteriorating mind. In the shimmering pills are memories of his mother, memories he covets. Lucien seizes the chance to see his mother through his grandmother’s eyes, by consuming his grandmother’s pills. It’s a form of remembering, he can capture the joy again- but at what cost? Through her mind, he can see versions of his mother he never knew, many ages and stages. It’s a violation, he knows this, these are not his treasures but are the memories wasted if his grandmother can’t retain them, as she is slowly disappearing herself into a place he cannot go? Are we our memories? What happens when they are abused like other illicit drugs? Sophie is a ballerina and a waitress at the Chateau Marmont, recently cast in La Slyphide with the Los Angeles Ballet. No one understands living in the body, its limits, more than a dedicated dancer. Rubbing shoulders with “the beautiful people”, the Hollywood elite, is a dream her younger self back in Minneapolis, wouldn’t believe. It is where she has come to know Ray Delaney, Hollywood producer, the man pardoned from all his vile behavior. Just an example of the less glamorous people, the unseen, sleazy side of such beautiful haunts. Mem is the hot drug on the scene, “all over the Chateau”, the “ultimate escape”, losing yourself in others consciousness and memories. Sometimes the choice is out of our hands, lives led to ruin by the powerful. What could go wrong? Both Lucien and Sophie end up at The Center, a rehabilitation clinic for addicts and abusers of Mem, headed up by Dr. Sloane. Sloane’s earlier days of research come into the story, showing she isn’t much different from the patients themselves. Angelica longs to convey “there is a way through it”, it being the pain. She also, though, knows the horror of seeing yourself from the other side, through another’s eyes, something we should never witness. It is our own memories we need to feed off of, our “happiest years”. She just wants to heal the suffering but she isn’t beyond the worst sort of violations, an intruder of intimacy. A bit of the novel deals with her story. Lucien and Sophie want themselves back, their own memories, where others aren’t encroaching on their minds. He has been losing himself in his grandmother’s moments. Sophie, in a horror story, with a stranger in her mind. The tale delves into the before Mem brought ruin and after the clinic. They feel a connection, they may have known each other before, there must be something to this familiarity. Neither can remember, until… They become close in rehab, Sophie just wants to see life from her own perspective and Lucien makes her feel like herself again. He is released first. Once they are both out, there are holes in their memories. Will they find each other again? I often had a feeling of distraction, the past and present. They are troubled, tormented by Mem for different reasons. The story is quite sad, actually. Trauma isn’t an easy topic to address. The ideal of escaping it, from severe to mild- what exactly is that measure anyway? Trauma, pain, loss- it can feel like it has stolen our lives. For some reason it was Lucien that I kept connecting with. I liked this novel but also had to take my time with it. I thought Sophie’s Mem experience is, by far, the worst. Talk about a victim of circumstance. I don’t want to give away too much. It’s a fascinating and to me, horrifying idea- living through another’s perspective. No thank you, mine is difficult enough. What about dark memories, tormented minds and sharing in their thoughts? Hmmm… What if someone’s memories intrude, haunt us? How do know which emotion is our own? Who are we if our mind is breaking away? Could joyful memories really fix what is broken? Are we better without pain? What do you think? Published August 10th, 2021 Atria Books

  23. 4 out of 5

    Tess

    THE SHIMMERING STATE is a pretty wild book, My first instinct is to say it's similar to a Black Mirror episode, but of course the novel has a lot more nuance and heart than the TV show. In this not too distant futuristic LA, people begin abusing a drug that is meant for Alzheimer patients to take to regain their memories. Except, when you take it and it's not meant for you, it can have serious side effects and that's where we meet our protagonists: at a rehab facility designed specifically to fi THE SHIMMERING STATE is a pretty wild book, My first instinct is to say it's similar to a Black Mirror episode, but of course the novel has a lot more nuance and heart than the TV show. In this not too distant futuristic LA, people begin abusing a drug that is meant for Alzheimer patients to take to regain their memories. Except, when you take it and it's not meant for you, it can have serious side effects and that's where we meet our protagonists: at a rehab facility designed specifically to fix people whose brains have become a bit warped because of this. On paper, this sounds like a fantastic plot but the book is a bit confusing and muddled at times, and I often felt like I had to slog my way through this debut. It was certainly compelling to see why people would want to take the drug and live other people's memories. We see actors who take it so they can easily access other people's experiences to make their craft better, people who want to see themselves through other people's eyes, and sons who want to see their mothers who have passed through the eyes of their aging grandparents. It's a tough read at times, and easily pulls at your heartstrings even though the prose is sparse and sometimes even cold. It's certainly more of an experience than a plot heavy book but I commend the shooting for the moon and would love to see this as an indie film someday.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

    The concept of The Shimmering State is an interesting one, with a new drug Memoroxin that allows people to experience memories. Not just experience, but fully live them. Initially developed to treat Alzheimer's the drug is abused, leading to the creation of a recovery centre where we find our two protagonists. Some people seem to believe this is a science fiction novel, it really is not - it's a story of addiction and firmly in the literary fiction genre (in my opinion) Sophie and Lucien have dif The concept of The Shimmering State is an interesting one, with a new drug Memoroxin that allows people to experience memories. Not just experience, but fully live them. Initially developed to treat Alzheimer's the drug is abused, leading to the creation of a recovery centre where we find our two protagonists. Some people seem to believe this is a science fiction novel, it really is not - it's a story of addiction and firmly in the literary fiction genre (in my opinion) Sophie and Lucien have different experiences with Memoroxin, while Lucien willingly took his grandmother's drug to deal with the grief associated with his mother's death, Sophie was unwillingly drugged which caused her to spiral. Having met prior to their addiction, they are drawn to each other in the recovery centre. The novel switches between the present in the treatment centre and "before", showing what lead both Sophie and Lucien to treatment. I really struggled to get into the book. Part 1, which is over half of the book, dragged for me. It wasn't until Part 2 that the novel really picked up its pacing. I was also underwhelmed by the storyline involving Dr. Sloane and Remy. It didn't feel completely concluded by the end. I think a couple of additionally chapters from Sloane's perspective, and definitely from Remy's would have helped the novel.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Stefanie

    The mere PREMISE of this book is problematic. I’m sick to death of people writing about drugs (even invented ones - maybe *especially* invented ones) from the same old same old stigmatizing perspectives, including: 1. All illicit drug use is abuse 2. People who use drugs all end up in treatment Someone read this and tell me if I’m wrong - if Memoroxin or whatever it’s called is actually seen as a force for good in this story, and it helps people grow and change in positive ways, despite being used The mere PREMISE of this book is problematic. I’m sick to death of people writing about drugs (even invented ones - maybe *especially* invented ones) from the same old same old stigmatizing perspectives, including: 1. All illicit drug use is abuse 2. People who use drugs all end up in treatment Someone read this and tell me if I’m wrong - if Memoroxin or whatever it’s called is actually seen as a force for good in this story, and it helps people grow and change in positive ways, despite being used outside of a medical context. Somehow I DON’T THINK SO. Maybe this is why many early reviewers can’t stay engaged with this story - it’s the SAME BORING OLD TAKE as we’ve ever seen. How does this tripe continue to get published? /endrant

  26. 5 out of 5

    Anne Goodwin

    Exquisitely written debut novel exploring how far we can possibly go to escape our own realities. Frightening in its realism of what could be in our near future as a society. Tender-hearted though in its character development and ultimately ends up being an exploration of a fragile love affair breaking through all road blocks. Thoroughly compelling read.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Devon Pierangeli

    So, the book just didn’t do it for me. I didn’t care about the characters and once that happens, it’s all she wrote.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Danielle

    LA seems absolutely unbearable.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Julie Kocsis

    Just stop what you’re doing right now and read this book. It’s the best thing I’ve read all year. So original, so interesting and beautifully written. Great characters. Loved it. Obsessed.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Alana

    Beautiful cover and interesting plot, but as hard as i tried, I could NOT finish it. way too slow moving, felt like nothing was happening, and the plot was weird, but not weird enough to keep me interested. Just not for me. I wont categorize this as "why was this published" because while I do think there are readers out there who may enjoy this one, it's my personal taste and lack of investment in the book that had me not feeling it at all. Beautiful cover and interesting plot, but as hard as i tried, I could NOT finish it. way too slow moving, felt like nothing was happening, and the plot was weird, but not weird enough to keep me interested. Just not for me. I wont categorize this as "why was this published" because while I do think there are readers out there who may enjoy this one, it's my personal taste and lack of investment in the book that had me not feeling it at all.

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