A Novel

Book - 2020
Average Rating:
Rate this:


Named a Best Book of the Year by The New York Times, The Washington Post , TIME , NPR, Entertainment Weekly, Vanity Fair, O, the Oprah Magazine , Esquire , Marie Claire, Harper's Bazaar , Good Housekeeping , Refinery29, Real Simple, Kirkus Reviews, Electric Literature , and Lit Hub

"A masterpiece. " --NPR

"No other novel this year captures so gracefully the full palette of America. " -- The Washington Post

"Wryly funny, gently devastating." -- Entertainment Weekly

A funny and profound story about family in all its strange forms, joyful and hard-won vulnerability, becoming who you're supposed to be, and the limits of love.

Benson and Mike are two young guys who live together in Houston. Mike is a Japanese American chef at a Mexican restaurant and Benson's a Black day care teacher, and they've been together for a few years--good years--but now they're not sure why they're still a couple. There's the sex, sure, and the meals Mike cooks for Benson, and, well, they love each other.

But when Mike finds out his estranged father is dying in Osaka just as his acerbic Japanese mother, Mitsuko, arrives in Texas for a visit, Mike picks up and flies across the world to say goodbye. In Japan he undergoes an extraordinary transformation, discovering the truth about his family and his past. Back home, Mitsuko and Benson are stuck living together as unconventional roommates, an absurd domestic situation that ends up meaning more to each of them than they ever could have predicted. Without Mike's immediate pull, Benson begins to push outwards, realizing he might just know what he wants out of life and have the goods to get it.

Both men will change in ways that will either make them stronger together, or fracture everything they've ever known. And just maybe they'll all be okay in the end.
Publisher: New York : Riverhead Books, 2020.
ISBN: 9780593087275
Branch Call Number: WASHINGT
Characteristics: 303 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm


From Library Staff

List - 20 from 2020
LPL_IanS Nov 30, 2020

"A sense of estrangement pervades this assured debut novel, which opens as a man flies to Osaka to care for his terminally ill father, leaving his visiting mother and his Black boyfriend to keep each other company. One of the great themes of “Memorial” is the immense power parents wield over... Read More »

LPL_DirectorBrad Nov 16, 2020

This book is sneaky in its goodness. As more skilled reviewers than me have noted, Memorial is superb in its observation and descriptions of the mundanity of life and our interpersonal relationships as humans. I was enjoying the book pretty well in the first half, and the change of perspective fr... Read More »

From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
Feb 20, 2021

I'm sad I'm disappointed. This is the relationship story of Benson and Mike, two gay men of color -- certainly representation there is too little of in contemporary literary fiction. There were things I liked here but the writing was often dull and flat, and I think the author made his two main characters too similar (father rejection issues, feisty moms). The last third had some well-written emotional payoff, but it wasn't enough to balance all that came before.

IndyPL_LindsayH Feb 11, 2021

Memorial is a story about relationships of all kinds, new and old, romantic and famlial. The two main characters, Benson and Mike, are in a tough place in their relationship. Do they stay together or move on?

At the start of the book Mike rushes off to Japan, to spend time with his estranged father, who is dying. At the same time that his mother arrives from Japan and Benson is left wondering what their future holds. Mike`s mother and Ben both feel abandoned and shocked by Mike`s departure

As time passes in the book old cracks in relationships are mended between both father and son. The men are also contemplating the other from afar, but are not sure how to move on. Do they stay together or break up? Bryan Washington`s novel is about contemplation, reflection, love, and loss.

Feb 11, 2021

Memorial is a book about relationships. As a single mom of a boy, the father/son one was the most intriguing, unwavering dedication regardless of history and circumstances. It also weaves in gay partners, mother/son, family, others. From routinely moving from current to past, the author reveals the how, why, when and where these relationships developed, mostly in a dysfunctional way. Some of the relationships were curiously difficult to interpret. in the end, I felt like I had arrived at the cliff's edge and didn't quite know what happened. I wanted to read about the book for someone to tell me. Then mulling over how the author's style, I decided I did see a slight glimpse into the future concluding with the current, but I'm not sure. See what you think!!

Jan 19, 2021

This started strong but lost me after the first section. The clipped, zippy writing style makes it a quick read. You also might "On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous."

Dec 17, 2020

The writing flows so naturally, intimately and delicately, like a narrative meringue. I thought this book was so sweet and enjoyable.

Nov 20, 2020

I know this is a free country and we all enjoy freedom of speech. Books are one of the most important things in my life and I would never encourage censorship or book burning. Except in this case. This book should not be available to younger impressionable minds and should not be read by anyone with any type of family or spiritual values. I checked this book out because the premise sounded very interesting to me. I made it through two chapters before I closed it and returned it. This book is vulgar, crass, and totally unnecessary in today's world.

LPL_DirectorBrad Nov 16, 2020

This book is sneaky in its goodness. As more skilled reviewers than me have noted, Memorial is superb in its observation and descriptions of the mundanity of life and our interpersonal relationships as humans. I was enjoying the book pretty well in the first half, and the change of perspective from one main character to the next brought the book to another level for me, a reminder that there are AT LEAST two sides to every story, every interaction. In addition to his well drawn characters, Bryan Washington brings Houston (and Osaka, Japan) to life in a fantastic debut novel. Highly recommended!

Oct 22, 2020

I listened to an advanced copy of this novel, and I loved it. It's a very human, character-driven story about two men possibly on the verge of ending their relationship when one decides to travel to Japan to see his estranged, dying father just as his mother arrives from Japan, leaving his Black boyfriend staying in their apartment with the mother.

Oct 03, 2020

RIYL Real Life, On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous, Japan, dysfunctional relationships.


Add Notices
Nov 23, 2020

Sexual Content: References to gay sex and intimacy


Add Age Suitability

There are no ages for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at LPL

To Top