In the near future, a man in India loses his shadow and people marvel at the phenomenon, until it begins happening to others, too. They soon realize that when their shadow disappears, so do their memories. Married couple Ory and Max hide out in an abandoned hotel deep in the woods of Virginia, hoping that their lack of contact with the outside world will prevent them from contracting the disease. Despite their efforts, one day Max loses her shadow. In order to protect Ory, Max leaves, which sets off a desperate search by Ory to find her before she forgets who he is.
In her debut novel, The Book of M, Peng Shepherd has created a fantastical scenario where people not only lose their past but can also re-create the world any way they want, as their memories do not constrain them to what is considered normal. She cleverly intertwines Indian mythology and the effects of her imaginary disease, with its eerie overtones of Alzheimer's, into a story filled with love, longing and the perception of the self. As Ory and Max interact with others--those engaged in a war between the Shadowed and the Shadowless, as well as a cult of Shadowed who worship the Shadowless--tension and excitement build. The story moves from India to Virginia, Washington, D.C., and finally New Orleans, where a bastion of survivors search for a remedy to the affliction. Shepherd's tale pushes the post-apocalyptic story in a new and exciting direction, making readers ponder questions about reality, self-perception and relationships. --Lee E. Cart, freelance writer and book reviewer