Memorial: A Novel - book cover
Literature & Fiction
  • Publisher : Riverhead Books
  • Published : 26 Oct 2021
  • Pages : 384
  • ISBN-10 : 0593087283
  • ISBN-13 : 9780593087282
  • Language : English

Memorial: A Novel



Named a Best Book of the Year by The New York Times, The Washington Post, TIME, NPR, Entertainment Weekly, Vanity Fair, O, the Oprah Magazine, Esquire, Marie Claire, Harper's Bazaar, Good Housekeeping, Refinery29, Real Simple, Kirkus Reviews, Electric Literature, and Lit Hub

"A masterpiece." -NPR

"No other novel this year captures so gracefully the full palette of America." -The Washington Post

"Wryly funny, gently devastating." -Entertainment Weekly

A funny and profound story about family in all its strange forms, joyful and hard-won vulnerability, becoming who you're supposed to be, and the limits of love.
Benson and Mike are two young guys who live together in Houston. Mike is a Japanese American chef at a Mexican restaurant and Benson's a Black day care teacher, and they've been together for a few years-good years-but now they're not sure why they're still a couple. There's the sex, sure, and the meals Mike cooks for Benson, and, well, they love each other.

But when Mike finds out his estranged father is dying in Osaka just as his acerbic Japanese mother, Mitsuko, arrives in Texas for a visit, Mike picks up and flies across the world to say goodbye. In Japan he undergoes an extraordinary transformation, discovering the truth about his family and his past. Back home, Mitsuko and Benson are stuck living together as unconventional roommates, an absurd domestic situation that ends up meaning more to each of them than they ever could have predicted. Without Mike's immediate pull, Benson begins to push outwards, realizing he might just know what he wants out of life and have the goods to get it.

Both men will change in ways that will either make them stronger together, or fracture everything they've ever known. And just maybe they'll all be okay in the end.

Editorial Reviews

Praise for Bryan Washington
National Book Award 5 Under 35
Winner of the Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence
Winner of the Dylan Thomas Prize
LOT was one of Barack Obama's "Favorite Books of the Year"

Praise for Memorial

"Wryly funny, gently devastating … Washington's hand is effortless-smooth dialogue, a love for good food, and his vibrant, sprawling, gradually gentrifying hometown-in inviting you into a nuanced love story that sticks to you like the Texas heat." -Entertainment Weekly

"Memorial is a wonderful unconventional rom-com [and]. . . a radiant exploration of love's permutations." O, The Oprah Magazine

"A fresh, vibrant love story that interweaves race, queerness, nationality, family, and intimacy with narrative ease." -Vogue

"Implicit in a book about changing relationships and titled "Memorial" is the question of what is being preserved. The book preserves Houston and Osaka. It preserves the feeling of being young and lost. It preserves the food that gives us comfort and nourishment and purpose." -The New York Times

"Profoundly sensitive. . . . [and] unspool[s] as spontaneously and clearly as late-night conversation. . . . Memorial is a testament to the permanence of filial connections, a clear-eyed acknowledgment that our relatives don't always behave nicely, but they're with us for life." -The Washington Post

"Memorial isn't just every bit as brilliant as its predecessor. It's somehow even better.... The dialogue in the novel is pitch-perfect, but it's in the spaces between the talking - the awkward silences, the questions left unanswered - that the characters reveal themselves. It's a difficult tactic to pull off, but Washington does it masterfully... Washington is an enormously gifted author, and his writing - spare, unadorned, but beautiful - reads like the work of a writer who's been working for decades, not one who has yet to turn 30. Just like Lot, Memorial is a quietly stunning book, a masterpiece that asks us to reflect on what we owe to the people who enter our lives." -NPR

"Washington deftly records the way the forces of loyalty pull the heartstrings in different directions. . . . Memorial leaves us with the sense that our true selves, like our true names, aren't necessarily bestowed at birth. They are chosen, too." -The New York Times Book Review

"Extraordinary. . . . Washington writes with ease, like a juggler who is adding in new objects all the time, except the book ends with everything aloft instead of in hand. ...

Readers Top Reviews

A memorial to the time I wasted reading this book and hoping beyond hope that the next page would make me empathise with the characters, all to no avail. I can only think that the reviewers read another book because I simply could not relate to their comments at all. It made me frustrated, it certainly wasn’t funny or moving, and the lack of any in-depth analysis of the characters left me extremely puzzled how anyone could empathise with them. A huge disappointment.
Donny Rock
A study of interpersonal relationships centered around tho homosexual lovers, one Japanese and the other Afro-American, their families and their work colleagues. They all appear quite superficial to me. I found the narration and sequencing a bit too spasmodic and wandering.
Janet HannszMrs S J
I am on page 194 and may just scan the rest of this of the worst books I've ever read...disjointed ... the writing is anything but good...I will never believe GMA again...what were they thinking????
R. TsutsumiManina
plot very difficult to follow - could not determine characters - supposed to be humorous bur was not

Short Excerpt Teaser


Mike's taking off for Osaka, but his mother's flying into Houston.

Just for a few weeks, he says.

Or maybe a couple of months, he says. But I need to go.

The first thing I think is: fuck.

The second's that we don't have the money for this.

Then, it occurs to me that we don't have any savings at all. But Mike's always been good about finances, always cool about separating his checks. It's something I'd always taken for granted about him.

Now, he's saying that he wants to find his father. The man's gotten sick. Mike wants to catch him before he goes. And I'm on the sofa, half-listening, half charging my phone.

You haven't seen your mom in years, I say. She's coming for you. I've never met her.

I say, You don't even fucking like your dad.

True, says Mike. But I already bought the ticket.

And Ma will be here when I'm back, says Mike. You're great company. She'll live.

He's cracking eggs by the stove, slipping yolks into a pair of pans. After they've settled, he salts them, drizzling mayonnaise with a few sprigs of oregano. Mike used to have this thing about sriracha, he'd pull a hernia whenever I reached for it, but now he squeezes a faded bottle over my omelette, rubbing it in with the spatula.

I don't ask where he'll stay in Japan. I don't ask who he's staying with. I don't ask where his mother will sleep here, in our one bedroom apartment, or exactly what that arrangement will look like. The thing about a moving train is that, sometimes, you can catch it. Some of the kids I work with, that's how their families make it into this country. If you fall, you're dead. If you're too slow, you're dead. But if you get a running start, it's never entirely gone.

So I don't flip the coffee table. Or one of our chairs. I don't key his car or ram it straight through the living room. After the black eye, we stopped putting our hands on each other -- we'd both figured, silently, it was the least we could do.

Today, what I do is smile.

I thank Mike for letting me know.

I ask him when he's leaving, and I know that's my mistake. I'm already reaching to toss my charger before he says it, tomorrow.


We've been fine. Thank you for asking.


Our relationship is, what, four years old? But that depends on how you count. We haven't been to a party in months, and when we did go to parties, at first, no one knew we were fucking. Mike just stood to the side while whatever white girl talked her way into my space, then he'd reach up over my shoulder to slip a finger into my beer.

Or he'd sneeze, stretch, and wipe his nose with my shirt sleeve.

Or he'd fondle my wallet, slowly, patting it back into place.

Once, at a dinner, right under the table, he held court with a hand in my lap. Running his thumb over the crotch. Every now and again, someone would look and you could tell when they finally saw. They'd straightened their backs. Smile a little too wide. Then Mike would ask what was wrong, and they'd promise it was nothing, and he'd go right back to cheesing, never once nodding my way.

We knew how we looked. And how we didn't look. But one night, a few weeks back, at a bar crawl for Mike's...