Rated Reads

The Woman Who Can’t Forget: The Extraordinary Story of Living with the Most Remarkable Memory Known to Science

by Jill Price

Rated: None

I like brain stuff. The brain is in control of our bodies and all the tiny and big functions that go on every single nanosecond. It’s getting to be better understood, but mostly it is still a gray haze of scientific mysteries. What better raw material for stories of any kind?

This memoir is the story of a woman who hasn’t been able to forget her own experiences in life — everything is intact since about the age of 11, most everything is there from age 8, and much more than typical is in her memory since young childhood. Sounds pretty cool on first thought, but who really would want to remember every painful experience, every embarrassment, every mistake, every horrible thing you’ve done or had done to you? Forgetting is a mercy.

Jill Price realized her memory was a bit unusual when she was in her youth, but as time went on and all the painful thoughts constantly assailed her, she began to hope for some kind of relief. Finally at the age of 34, she found a researcher in the Los Angeles area who began working with her and using her experiences as a valuable research tool. Through the process, she has learned how better to control her memories. Knowing that she truly is unique — and not “crazy” somehow — has also given her relief.

Price alternates between her life story — the more mundane details and those that particularly explain the drawbacks of having such clear autobiographical recall — and basic explanations of the science of memory, research, and the evolving understanding scientists are piecing together. It’s generally quite interesting. Sometimes her life story is not as compelling as the science; sometimes it is more so. Particularly poignant but sometimes feeling a bit like a tangent is her experience meeting and marrying the love of her life.

Occasionally the book drags a bit, but getting the human angle from a woman whose brain and life experiences have contributed so much to the science of memory is a nice complement to a technical treatise.

Rated: None. Language is entirely absent, as are any real sexual references or details.

— Reviewed by Cathy Carmode Lim

Cathy Carmode Lim has been reviewing books for newspapers for about 15 years, two of which she was a book page editor. She founded Rated Reads in January 2008.

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Woman Who Can't Forget
  • The Woman Who Can’t Forget: The Extraordinary Story of Living with the Most Remarkable Memory Known to Science
  • by Jill Price
  • Rated: None
  • Genre: Nonfiction
  • Reviewer: