Tell Me an Ending

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Pub Date 12 May 2022 | Archive Date Not set
Random House UK, Cornerstone, Hutchinson Heinemann

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'Pure pleasure' THE TIMES
Incredibly nicely written . . . [Jo Harkin] writes really well about human beings. I really enjoyed it' MARIAN KEYES
'Sharply, beautifully written' THE NEW YORK TIMES
'As page-turning as a thriller, and as thought-provoking as an inquiry into the human mind should be' i PAPER
'Intriguing, frightening, witty and humane' WALL STREET JOURNAL
'Riveting and thought-provoking' KAREN THOMPSON WALKER
'Whip-smart and thoughtful with a dark vein of humour. Compulsively readable. I loved it - CHRISTINA SWEENEY-BAIRD
'I literally couldn't put it down' CARYS BRAY


What if you could erase your most painful memory? Would you still, be you?

Across the world, thousands of people are shocked to receive an email telling them that they once chose to have a traumatic memory removed. Now they are being given the chance to get that memory back.

For Mei, William, Oscar and Finn there is a piece missing, but they're not sure what. And each of them must decide if the truth is worth the pain, or better left unknown.

For Noor, who works at the memory clinic Nepenthe, the process of reinstating their patients' memories begins to shake the moral foundations of her world. As she delves deeper into the programme, she will have to risk everything to uncover the true human cost of this miraculous technology.

An exploration of secrets, grief, identity and belonging - of the stories we tell ourselves, and come to rely on, Tell Me An Ending is a sharp, dark and devastating novel about the power and danger of memory.


'A compelling cautionary intelligent ensemble piece that raises fascinating questions about how we use memory both to create and dismantle ourselves, and the ultimate mystery of who, or possibly what, "myself" actually is' GUARDIAN

'Extraordinary...gripping, inventive, and a memory I'll never forget' EMMA STONEX

'A triumph of a novel . . . I loved it' EMYLIA HALL
'Original, compelling, and utterly captivating' LUCY CLARKE

'A smart, thought-provoking page-turner. I loved it' MARCEL THEROUX
'Suspenseful, richly imagined, and brimming with compassion... I finished the last page desperate to discuss this brilliant novel with everyone I know' JESSAMINE CHAN

'Thought-provoking and utterly compulsive' TAHMIMA ANAM
'Original, morally complex, heartbreakingly human' TAMMY COHEN

'It will stay with me for a long time' JESSICA BARRY

'A compelling page-turner rendered in exquisite prose' SHELLEY HARRIS

'Pure pleasure' THE TIMES
Incredibly nicely written . . . [Jo Harkin] writes really well about human beings. I really enjoyed it' MARIAN KEYES
'Sharply, beautifully written' THE NEW YORK TIMES

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ISBN 9781529151374
PRICE £16.99 (GBP)

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Featured Reviews

Across the world, thousands of people are shocked to receive an email telling them that they once chose to have a traumatic memory removed. Now they are being given the chance to get that memory back. Expertly plotted and so compelling with twist after brilliant twist . . . the perfect addictive holiday read.

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This was such an original and thought provoking premise, I don't think that I have read a book like this before and I really enjoyed it. It was well written with a compelling storyline and well developed characters that were flawed and complex and completely relatable. The whole time I was reading this I kept thinking about things that people - myself included - would choose to have removed from their memories - whether it was a traumatic death, a breakup, a bullying episode or so forth and whether deciding whether to get that memory back would be an easy choice - i still don't know. However, I do know that this was a truly grippingread that I couldn't put down. I really enjoyed it.

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A tech company, Nepenthe, can help people remove unwanted memories and have done so successfully. But now, thousands of people are receiving an email telling them they had a traumatic memory removed. They have no recollection, but are being given the chance to get it back. For the people involved, they must decide whether to find that missing piece of memory or leave their life exactly as it is. For Noor and Louse, working at the clinic, the repercussions of the reinstatement of memory is far reaching, both personally and professionally. 

I love secrets and this novel just reinforces that, combined with the sci-fi element, it was just so interesting and unique. I flew through this novel, exploring each of the characters missing memories and lives. The synopsis is spot on when it describes it as sharp, dark and devastating -  it was all of those things and truly explored the power and danger of memory. There were lots of characters and story threads running through this to remember, but aside from that it was just brilliant and definitely one I recommend.

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I was given an ARC of this story and I was fascinated from beginning to end.

I’ve always been intrigued by how the mind works and even written about it, so when I saw the description of this book I was delighted to receive a copy. The story involves memory and the removal of such due to trauma of some kind.

The characters bring to life the concept – Finn, Mei, William, Oscar – while lurks the ‘evil’ of corporations. Noor is the central character, a psychologist who works for the corporation in London. She’s certainly complex but her moral code is high, though she is emotionally stunted, while Louise is a mystery in many ways.

As the backgrounds of each character unfold, the plot unravels and my fascination deepened.

The writing style was like an explosion of ideas, thought and feelings, fast-paced and compelling. I liked the switches between characters that slowly gave insight into what was happening.

For me, the concept was gripping and made me think about how important memory is in making us who we are – so when it’s taken, what will that mean?

A thought-provoking and persuasive read, which I highly recommend.

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I was completely gripped by this book and couldn't put it down. The way in which the various characters were interlinked was clever, but believable, and I felt that all the characters were appealing and convincing. The book certainly provides food for thought with regard to the role our memories play in making us who we are, and the extent to which memories can just be erased, and whether that is desirable. Definitely a book I would recommend.

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Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind as written by Kazuo Ishiguro is how I would pitch this quiet and thought-provoking novel.

Tell Me An Ending explores the pros and cons of memory deletion through the lenses of various personal stories that are loosely interconnected. The book provides no easy answers to most of the questions it poses, which, after having read the book, I would argue is the point.

I loved the beautiful prose and the slightly dissociated tone of the writing. Some parts read like you were uncovering a memory yourself.

For a novel with such a dystopian premise, I was surprised how grounded and realistic the story actually was. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro is an example that comes to mind for this kind of quiet speculative fiction.

I was invested in some of the characters more so than in others, but all of them were complex, layered and full of silent desperation.

The ending was impactful and a few parts at the end had my eyes well with tears.

The pacing is a bit slow in the beginning, but after about 40% I was firmly hooked and could not put this book down.

(Thank you to NetGalley, Jo Harkin and Random House UK, Cornerstone, Hutchinson Heinemann for providing me with an eARC for this book in exchange for my honest feedback. All opinions in this review are my own.)

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As Jo Harkin mentions in her acknowledgements she has thoroughly researched some scientific facts behind this fictional tale of a world in which people are able to have difficult or traumatic memories wiped providing they do not relate to a possible crime. There are two kinds of wipe known to the public: one where the patient knows they have had a memory removed and a second where the knowledge of the wipe is also removed. When patients begin experiencing glimpses of their old memories it becomes clear that the 'cure' may be worse than the original problem. The novel follows a number of patients as they struggle with the dilemma of whether or not to have their memories restored, including those who, thanks to a new legal warning, have been made aware that they had had a memory wiped when they previously had no idea. The repercussions force the reader to ask themselves the question are you better off not knowing about bad things that happened in the past or do we need memories to help us heal? The writer manages to create the feeling that this is happen in our own times (an alternative reality) rather than a futuristic setting. This is a really enjoyable and thought provoking novel which I would happily recommend to anyone wanting a well written novel.

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What a debut! Such an interesting and original read. Highly recommend!
Thank you for the opportunity to read this ARC.

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We all have things we would rather forget. We all have things that we have blocked out, particularly if they are traumatic or paint us in a poor light. Just look at Schwarzenegger in Total Recall. He found out he was a bad guy.
Tell me AN Ending is a darkly comic and unsettling novel in which the process of forgetting has been monetized by an unscrupulous company. Some people have had their memories removed and forgotten about it. The story follows a number of people who are faced with the dilemma of whether or not to remember what they have forgotten. I maintain that the memories will always bleed through and that seems to be borne out by this thoughtful and occasionally upsetting book.

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Thought-provoking and compulsively readable, this novel was nearly impossible to put down. I love the growing genre of novels centred on queer women, whose queerness really plays no significant role in the plot but is simply fact, who discover a secret their scientific job is hiding that turns their worldview from one of utopia to dystopia. (A similar novel I want to shelve this one next to is 'You Feel it Just Below the Ribs' for its similar themes). While I think the ending wrapped up a little too cleanly--I was excitedly anticipating a much darker twist--I do think it ended more realistically, which can be argued makes the book that much more sinister as it felt like something that could actually happen. Overall, it made me really think about how much your memories make you who are and whether it's a good thing to forget something even if it hurts. Brilliant.

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Unique, Disquieting…
High concept suspense, both unique and disquieting. A memory clinic is giving the opportunity to retrieve that lost memory, that traumatic memory that the chosen ones decided to lose forever. The question is - do they want it back? After all, some memories may undoubtedly be perilous. Character driven exploration of the power of the human psyche and all that goes with it and of a miraculous piece of technology that, perhaps, is best left in it’s place.

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Jo Harkin brings Nepenthe to life by dropping the reader straight into a new world on page 1. We begin with Noor, who interviews customers for Nepenthe to gather information after their memory deletions, and Louise, a doctor who performs the initial psychological assessments. The story also follows four main characters who have been impacted by memory deletions.

The reader gets to know more about each character, but crucially not their reasons for deletion. This brings a better understanding of the complexity surrounding their choices when they are offered the opportunity to restore a memory that had been deleted. On a very basic level this appears to be a simple yes or no choice, but as we learn each character’s fate we realise how complex the moral dilemma really is. The procedure they opted for meant that even the deletion itself was kept a secret from their future selves, so the choice of yes or no could impact the rest of their life, and those closest to them in unknown ways. Exploring the importance of memory in identity, grief, and relationships; Tell Me An Ending brings some big themes to an accessible sci-fi thriller.

On the surface the premise of Nepenthe may seem appealing; helping people to delete the memories that are harmful to them. But dig a little deeper and Jo Harkin exposes the reality of the dystopian world that comes with it.

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An absorbing novel about trauma and memory.

This is a well thought-out story about the impact of the fictional technology of memory editing on the lives of some well-drawn and interesting characters. That technology is shown to have some strengths and some value, but the key limitation is that people will only pay thousands of pounds to edit out a memory which really troubles them, which means that almost every patient is troubled and unstable in some way. The technology is also open to exploitation by organised crime, but is this actually abuse when it removes the motivation for killing someone?

Most of the characters have opted not to know that their memory has been edited, and this raises problems of its own, such as attempts to get further edits to deal with the problems left behind by the first. And that’s before evidence emerges that the edits are potentially reversible. It’s a tale of problems posed by technology, to which moral solutions have to be found.

The other message of this novel is that a “peaceful life” could be an oxymoron for some individuals and that they may feel they have to choose between the two. That’s a realisation which stands independently of the technological environment of this novel.

I recommend this novel with five stars mainly because it shows that obliterating a traumatic memory may simply leave a patient ill-equipped to cope with the after-effects of that trauma. I have no confidence that the technology described here is going to remain fictional forever, or even for very long, so it’s worth thinking about before it all comes to pass.

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This book really hooked me totally from the first few pages. It's the story of different people who have all had their memories altered by the slightly sinister Nepenthe, where changing a person's brain has become quite everyday. People erase traumatic memories, uncomfortable situations, and sometimes they don't know it's been done because it's not been their own choice. Anyway, you know how sometimes in books where there are different stories, you are more invested in some stories than others? Here I wanted them all, they were all equally interesting. The novel is totally believable I think, in that we would in some cases choose to erase memories if we could and I won't spoil the story by giving any clues about what happens. I so wanted to know that sweet vulnerable Mei was going to be okay, or that the lovely Noor would feel better soon so I could have happily read more. I'm not sure what happened to Finn in the end, maybe I read too quickly (and too late into the night) but I loved him as well. It's a book that I shall recommend to people definitely. Don't be put off by it sounding a bit Sci fi, because it didn't seem so once you accept the basic premise of the book. It would make a fantastic TV series I think.

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Tell Me an Ending by Jo Harkin

Nepenthe is a company that can remove memories. They can do it so that you know you’ve done it and they can do it so that you don’t remember having it done. And, as it turns out, they can restore those memories.

The novel centers around several characters and how they’re connected both to Nepenthe and to one another. There’s Noor, a doctor at Nepenthe. There’s William, a cop, and Mei, the daughter of Louise who is another doctor at Nepenthe. There are others, too. How the stories twist around one another is very satisfying, and the way the plot comes together slowly and steadily is fascinating, both while one reads and after one has finished the whole of it.

It would be too easy to spoil this story – reviewing it without giving too much away is like building a house of cards. But I recommend it highly – it’s well-crafted, unusual, and fascinating. The ending is satisfying without being facile, and there is a feeling of slow closure that stops short of closed.

I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Tell Me an Ending is such a clever and intriguing concept. I found it a little overwhelming at times, but the writing is good and it's definitely a thought provoking read. I think it would also make a brilliant television series.

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”If someone’s 90 per cent awful and 10 per cent great, everyone says that deep down they’re great. Like they’re an iceberg but all the greatness is under the water –and invisible. But actually, the truth is, they’re just 90 per cent awful.’”

Nepenthe is a clinic that hands out memory deletions as though they were antidepressants. After law suits were won in court, in favour of the clients, Nepenthe is ordered to offer memory restorations to clients who are self-confidential (don’t know they had a memory deleted).

This story follows different people and how the philosophical issues of memory deletion affects them. Dr. Noor Ali, one of the senior doctors in Nepenthe discovers Nepenthe doesn’t always have the best interest of the clients at heart, and wonders how far will we sacrifice health for the advancement of science?

Finn, an Irish architect in a loving relationship with his wife Mirande, who suddenly finds out that years ago she had a memory deletion. Finn finds himself incredibly suspicious of her, especially when it came to her and her ex boyfriend, David.

Mei, a young girl who went through a memory deletion but is now suffering flashbacks of houses she’s never seen before and voices she’s never heard before.

William, whose PTSD is as rocky to navigate as his marriage, has to decide whether he wants to restore his memory, or totally delete any remnants of his PTSD.

Oscar, the most obscure of them all. He’s convinced he’s done something incredibly bad in the past, involving a gun. His memory loss is so severe he’s unsure of his core self, and what he’s capable of.

As their lives intertwine and the great big philosophical questions of the universe are asked, how will these different people respond to their personal trauma?

I feel like the writing in Tell Me An Ending by Jo Harkin is, to put it frankly, superior. There’s a scientific fiction themed plot, yet the writing had this gorgeously contemporary feel to it. It was really refreshing. Also, the amounts of quotes I saved could almost write a novella.

”The future is here, thinks Noor, and it wasn’t thought through.”

JH handles the creation of morally grey characters seemingly without effort. The varied trials and tribulations they go through all felt incredibly realistic. I sincerely enjoyed this authors ability to tell lots of little story arcs and intertwine those to make one big overarching novel.

”Heaven is knowledge of goodness, hell is knowledge of evil. Purgatory is not knowing which is which.”

My one and only blemish would be the slow pacing. Most times, it suited the story. Other times, I felt my attention wandering a bit (also doesn’t help I’m an incredibly busy mum, I guess.)

I usually recommend based on genre, which would be those who enjoy sci-fi, however I think that anyone who likes fiction would enjoy this. It is worth keeping in mind that the sci-fi aspect of the novel feels more life like than other health treatments offered today

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This is not the usual sort of book I would read but I did find it very interesting. Definitely worth a read.

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This multiple character viewpoint novel is a reflection on the impact of choosing to delete memories and the further impact of regaining those memories. It is a disquieting read and one which should be experienced in several sittings rather than read from cover to cover in one go. The story is well written and the characters are sensitively drawn in order to show human nature with all the flaws and worth in each.

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