cover image The Shimmering State

The Shimmering State

Meredith Westgate. Atria, $27 (320p) ISBN 978-1-982156-71-8

A dangerous new party drug hits the streets of Los Angeles in Westgate’s ambitious debut. Mem, short for Memoroxin, an experimental, shimmering pill, contains a person’s happy memories, which they’ve selected. While Mem is manufactured to help those with Alzheimer’s, trauma, and mental illness, it becomes a hot black-market item thanks to its ability to allow people “to experience a moment as someone else.” Lucien, a flailing photographer, steals his grandmother’s Mem pills in hopes of seeing his deceased mother through the grandmother’s memories. Sophie, an ambitious ballerina and a waitress at Chateau Marmont, also gets hooked on Mem. Both Lucien and Sophie end up in a rehab facility run by the drug’s producers, where they form a deep connection and Lucien feels they’ve met before. When they’re out, they collaborate on a film project inspired by Lucien’s grandmother’s memory. In chapters alternating before and after the rehab stint, Westgate weaves a tight tale of relationships and loneliness in a city populated by people always on the hunt for the next big escape. It’s a captivating story, one that leaves readers wondering if a life scrubbed of pain and real connection is a life at all. Agent: Christopher Hermelin, Fischer-Harbage. (Aug.)