How to Be Remembered, debut fiction by Michael Thompson

26 February 2023
How to Be Remembered by Michael Thompson, book cover

Tommy is desperate to create a legacy for himself. But he can’t wait until he reaches old age. Tommy needs people to remember who he is sooner than that. Before his birthday, to be precise. For, come the conclusion of each lap of his around the Sun, all memory of his existence is erased from the minds of everyone in the world. No one at all remembers him.

This includes his parents, his friends, and even the girl he has a crush on. As far they’re concerned, he was never there. Every trace of his life is obliterated. Memories. Photos. Shared experiences. Every last thing, including, presumably, a criminal record if he has one. Each and every detail gone, as if it were never there. And you thought you were having a bad day.

But not everything dissolves when the clock ticks over into his birthday. Anything Tommy is in direct contact with, such as his clothes, stays with him. The phenomenon is some sort of enigmatic cosmic occurrence that Tommy has dubbed “the Reset”, and it began the day he turned one.

On his first birthday, his parents woke to find an unknown baby in the house. They had no recollection whatsoever of having a son. Clueless as to who the infant was, they called the police, who sent Tommy to a foster home. And so it went. Every year all traces of Tommy are wiped from the world’s slate, leaving him to spend the following twelve months rebuilding his life.

How to Be Remembered (published by Allen & Unwin, February 2023), by Sydney based Australian journalist and podcast producer Michael Thompson, straight away had me thinking of Harold Ramis’ 1993 film Groundhog Day. Like Ramis’ hapless protagonist Phil, portrayed by American actor Bill Murray, Tommy is aware of his predicament, albeit one that plays out annually instead of daily.

He remembers everything from before his birthday. To him, his life is continuous. He still knows those around him, although they don’t have the faintest idea who he is. Accordingly, Tommy has devised strategies to re-establish himself in the lives of those he was with before the Reset.

But Thompson’s debut work of fiction is not only reminiscent of the likes of Groundhog Day. Parallels have also been drawn with The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and even Forrest Gump. The Reset, meanwhile, is another matter. It is a sadistic abnormality that perhaps a serial speedster — seeking only to have an unblemished driving record restored every year — might appreciate.

But it is for that reason I see How to Be Remembered being a story that will excite readers. So much so, that I wouldn’t be surprised to see a screen adaptation in the not too distant future.

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