Book Review | The Book of M by Peng Shepherd

31 January 2021


The Book of M by Peng Shepherd is a book I've been interested in reading for awhile, if not for it's incredibly unique premise, because of how polarizing the reactions to this book are from fellow reviewers. This seems to be a story that people either love or hate, and I'm always curious to find out what my thoughts are on a book when there are so many different opinions out there on it.

In general, I tend to have a love/hate relationship with dystopian stories anyway. I find them incredibly poignant and unsettling in how realistic they feel, but sometimes they can be either overly confusing or overly trope-y. 

I thought The Book of M was one that had a lot of potential to be one I would absolutely love! It follows the idea of memories being connected to our shadows, and what would happen if people then began to lose their shadows, and therefore their memories with them. The shadowless pandemic begins to sweep the world and the main characters are forced to make alliances and find their way to a sanctuary where there's hope for a cure.

Out of all the dystopian/survival stories I've read, this one is a lot more in the realm of magical realism. There is no explanation or imaginary scientific evidence given for why memories are connected to shadows in this version of our world, or why the shadows are beginning to disappear. You just have to suspend your disbelief while you're reading. In this way it reminded me of books like Station Eleven and Bird Box as it was really vague about the condition and deals more with the characters and how they survive.

If you don't like it when books make you do that, you probably won't like this one at all. I typically don't have a problem with imagining a different reality, so I didn't mind that aspect. But despite that, this book was a downward spiral of a reading experience for me. It wasn't the lack of explanation or world building that threw me off, it was just how extremely confusing the structure of this story was and the way the interesting concept was executed. 

It started off well enough, even if the multiple perspectives were all occurring in different points in time, some before the shadows started to disappear while others were going through the repercussions of society falling apart as people lost their memories. I was able to follow along pretty well at the beginning because I was invested in the characters and was so curious to see how they got where they were and where they would go in the end.

The characters were another strong aspect that I loved in this book. They all had very clear motivations and backstories that were interesting. They were all from such different phases in life and I was excited to see how they would all inevitably come together in the climax of the story.

But, unfortunately, after I hit the half way point everything fell apart for me. Maybe I wasn't paying as much attention as I thought and accidentally missed something, because I got incredibly confused. The timeline became so twisted and I couldn't tell how much time was passing in between events. Also, some characters I thought were important either became unnecessary or very unsettling.

The most confusing aspect of everything came at the end with the climax in the "One Who Gathers" storyline. This was the point that all the magical realism stuff started to go way over my head. I don't want to spoil anything, but that whole last bit of the book made me uncomfortable for some reason. 

I will say that the plot twist took me off guard. I didn't even realize it happened until I finished the book and read a different review that explained it. It was a good twist, but for me at least, it got drowned out in the straight up weirdness going on.

In the end, this book just left me feeling sad because it had so much potential to be great. If the structure could have been smoothed out and the weirdness toned down, it could've been a favorite. But I'm sure there are plenty of people who will love this book regardless of my personal problems with it.  

Rating: ★
"There's a difference between when the mind forgets and the heart does." -- Peng Shepherd, The Book of M

1 comment

  1. I have never heard of this one, but that cover is amazing!! I feel you about wanting *your own* opinion on books that have controversial reviews. I might have to add this to my list. : )