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Review: 'Memorial' like a dance gliding between characters

“Memorial,” by Bryan Washington (Riverhead Books) “Memorial,” by Bryan Washington, follows the complex relationship between Benson, a Black day care teacher, and Mike, a Japanese American chef. The couple live together in Texas, and for all intents and purposes, they are in love. Lately, though, their relationship has felt strained, and as issues with their respective families become more pressing, their lives together only grow more complicated.

Mike’s mother arrives for a visit at the same time Mike finds out his estranged father is dying in Japan. So, he leaves Benson alone to live with his mother in their apartment and travels to be with his father.

Benson’s time with Mike’s mom, as well as Mike’s time navigating his relationship with his father, prove to be transformative for both men. “Memorial” is a powerful portrait of the challenges, both internal and external, that so often come with loving another human being. With unique and beautiful prose, it weaves together a fascinating story of cultures, families, and lovers both clashing and coming together in the beautiful mess that is loving and living.

While the characters feel lost and out of control, the story, itself, never does. Washington has a strong and purposeful command over every moment. With its soft prose and alternating perspectives, “Memorial” feels like a dance, effortlessly gliding between the characters’ stories as they discover who they are supposed to be.

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