‘The Memory Eater’ exclusive excerpt: Rebecca Mahoney warns us that forgetting comes at a price

With this The Memory Eater exclusive excerpt, get a taste of what Rebecca Mahoney will offer in her latest novel, which features a mysterious monster and a sprinkle of magical realism.

If you read my The Minuscule Mansion of Myra Malone book review, then you’ll know I have a soft spot for this genre. Magical realism, more than any other, keeps alive the hope that there’s more to this world than we think.

The Memory Eater by Rebecca Mahoney is one such book. Tasked with keeping a monster at bay by feeding it memories after her grandmother dies, Alana discovers that inheriting the family business is not nearly simple as it may seem at first glance.

‘The Memory Eater’ official synopsis

A teenage girl must save her town from a memory-devouring monster in this piercing exploration of grief, trauma, and memory, from the author of The Valley and the Flood.

For generations, a monster called the Memory Eater has lived in the caves of Whistler Beach, Maine, surviving off the unhappy memories of those who want to forget. And for generations, the Harlows have been in charge of keeping her locked up—and keeping her fed.

After her grandmother dies, seventeen-year-old Alana Harlow inherits the family business. But there’s something Alana doesn’t know: the strange gaps in her memory aren’t from an accident. Her memories have been taken—eaten. And with them, she’s lost the knowledge of how to keep the monster contained.

Now the Memory Eater is loose. Alana’s mistake could cost Whistler Beach everything—unless she can figure out how to retrieve her memories and recapture the monster. But as Alana delves deeper into her family’s magic and the history of her town, she discovers a shocking secret at the center of the Harlow family business and learns that tampering with memories always comes at a price.

Not only does this book have an interesting setup—what happens when you lose the one memory that will help you stop a monster from devouring everything?—it also promises to tackle important issues like grief and trauma.

In the Memory Eater exclusive excerpt below, you’ll be introduced to Alana at her lowest point—when she discovers the mistake she’s made and the problem she has no idea how to solve. Even just reading this quick glimpse of the book has me hooked, and I can’t wait to see how Alana saves her town, her memories, and her family’s legacy.

‘The Memory Eater’ exclusive excerpt

There’s water seeping down my back, and a voice above me. Alana, I—

I surge upright, and a solid pressure pins me where I am. “Alana.” Not the Memory Eater’s voice. But not the one that woke me, either. “Alana, Alana, it’s okay. Stay still a minute.”

I blink. It doesn’t help. It’s too dark to see who’s holding my shoulders. There’s a low pool under me—can see it rippling out of the corner of my eye. Oh God. I slipped again, didn’t I? I slipped and did something worse.

“Alana? Do you . . .” Here, the voice shakes, a little. “Do you know who I am?”

I blink again, hard. This time the world rights itself. That’s Scott’s voice. Not Charlie’s. Why did I think I heard Charlie?

I reach up to feel at my head, my scalp. It doesn’t hurt. It doesn’t feel like I hit it. “Scott,” I whisper. “I . . .” Something is wedged between my hip and the cave floor, scraping at my back where my hoodie has started to ride up. It’s just enough pain to spark my brain the rest of the way into motion.

I’m lying on the seal.

“Oh my God.” The ground sways under us as I right myself. “Oh my God.”

“Careful.” He says it so, so gently that for a second, I think he must not understand what’s happened. “Try to focus. Does anything hurt?”

I can faintly make out Scott’s pale face hovering over me now, his eyes wide in the dark. His phone’s flashlight, set faceup on the rocks behind him, is starting to dim. I almost don’t look to the back wall of the cave. Like if I don’t see it, it won’t be empty. But looking away is what our clients do. Looking away got us here.

She’ll get the better of someone someday, baby.

So I turn to the spot the Memory Eater has occupied all my life. And finally, the night becomes real.

“She broke the seal,” I say. “She’s out. Scott, I—”

For every rule and warning and precaution I’ve ever had to memorize, there has never been a what happens if the seal breaks. Any given Harlow might be fallible. But the seal wasn’t. It doesn’t matter how else you can fail as a person. You can remember a simple set of numbers, bleed on a few rocks, control your feelings for just a few minutes of every day. It’s easy, in the end. Three of the easiest things a person can do.

Or maybe we always knew the seal breaking was a possibility. Maybe it was that we never wanted to acknowledge the cold, cavernous gap at the center of our business: that we were inheriting a power we would never learn how to use.

But Grandma knew. She’ll get the better of someone someday, baby—

I thought that what she asked was impossible. But if it’s all I have—

And when that happens—

But after she said that—

You need to—

“I don’t know what to do.” It’s hardly a whisper. It’s hardly a voice.

“It’s okay,” he says. Like we’re at the kitchen table and he’s talking me through precalc. “Alana, we’re going to figure this out.”

“No.” Seawater has soaked through the back of my hoodie. And when it rushes fully through the fabric, the cold floods right into my skin. “Scott—I’ve forgotten what I’m supposed to do.”

‘The Memory Eater’ hits store shelves on March 14, 2023

the memory eater by rebecca mahoney

Buy The Memory Eater by Rebecca Mahoney from Penguin Random House, Bookshop.org, Book Depository, or Amazon. You can also add it to your Goodreads list.

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