In The Amnesia Clinic, author James Scudmore demonstrates that memory can be a tricky thing and that our lives are often just a patchwork of what has happened to us. Set in Quito, Ecuador, the novel centers on the unusual friendship between Anthony, a fifteen-year-old British ex-pat, and the exotic and truculant Fabian, child of a wealthy Ecuadorian family.
Over the past few years, Fabian has been routinely inviting Anthony to his gated compound to partake in the company of Fabian's mysterious Uncle Suarez, who has been captivating Anthony with "his mess of tangents and shaggy-dog stories."
But Fabian is also the "king of the doctored story," bragging and arrogant; nothing Fabian says can be taken at face value as he boasts to Anthony about his family heritage and his life as an Ecuadorian. Nonetheless, the one subject that proves to be tricky at best is the whereabouts of Fabian's parents.
Although they have never touched on the subject in conversation, Anthony is aware that Fabian's father is definitely dead and that his mother has for some years been absent. Rumors continue to fly around town about what really happened to them, but the stories are ubiquitous and everybody seems to have a different version of the events.
The most likely explanation is that Fabian's mother probably died in a car accident while ferrying his father to the hospital after he was mauled in a bullfight. Fabian, however, continues to believe that she is somehow alive and well; he even has visions of her on a carnival float at the Easter parade.
In an effort to appease Fabian and perhaps just make him feel a bit better, Anthony makes up a story, concocting an outlandish tale where his mother has lost her memory and is in imaginary hospital called the Amnesia Clinic, run by an eccentric billionaire named Victor Menosmal and situated on the exotic faraway surfing beach of Pedrascada.
Inspired by the fact that it just might be true, Fabian talks Anthony into traveling to the area, and the two take off together for a weekend. Anthony, however, is aware of the strange type of pantomime developing between them.
Upon arrival at Pedrascada, Fabian starts acting strangely, drinking too much and taking to fanatically rubbing his arms and face with alcohol.
Alone they might have gotten through their adventure without coming to any harm, but the presence of a young, beautiful marine biologist who is scavenging for the bones of humpbacked whales acts as a horrid catalyst. In his rage, Fabian ultimately sets events in motion that will disrupt the whole friendship and change the direction of the boys' future.
The Amnesia Clinic is about the terrible ramifications of self-delusion, where common sense logic and a sense of what is actually true
are no longer seen as a viable alternatives. The book is also a startling eye-opener into the country of Ecuador, with Anthony's observations while traveling reading like a travelogue with his impressions of the country, the people, and the customs.
Of course, events eventually come to a disastrous and dreaded climax on the rocky, cliff-strewn shores of Pedrascada Beach as memory, imagination and reality clash with tragic consequences for Fabian
and for Anthony.
This is where Anthony finally learns the hard lesson that real life can be so disappointing at times, and that there is certainly a price to be paid for letting someone place so much of their trust and faith in the make-believe.