Bryan Washington burst onto the literary scene last year with his debut book, Lot, a short-story collection that unfolds with novelistic richness, and earned high acclaim from critics at publications ranging from The New York Times to NPR to, yes, EW. It’s but one reason why the author’s first novel, Memorial, marks one of the more anticipated books of the fall.
Advanced word on Memorial is awfully high, and Washington has shared an exclusive first-look with EW. The novel follows Benson and Mike, 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. Their bond is further tested when Mike finds out his estranged father is dying in Osaka just as his acerbic mother, Mitsuko, arrives in Texas for a visit. Mike flies to Japan to say goodbye, only to discover the profound truths of his family’s past; Mitsuko and Benson become unconventional roommates; and both transform in ways that could bring them closer together, or drive them permanently apart.
“More than anything else, I wanted to write a story that wouldn’t make you feel worse for having read it,” Washington tells EW. “I’ve been calling it a gay slacker dramedy — which isn’t inaccurate — but I also think it’s a book about trying to navigate the creases a life can hold, and just trying to be okay.”
Lot was named one of Barack Obama’s favorite books of 2019, and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle’s John Leonard Prize and the PEN Bingham Award. EW also named it one of the year’s best books. Washington received the prestigious “5 Under 35” honor from the National Book Foundation.
EW can reveal the cover for Memorial below, designed by Na Kim. “It isn’t just that Na Kim is one of the best artists working today — she’s simply operating on a plane of expertise entirely separate from everyone else,” Washington gushes. “There was my understanding of the novel before I saw her cover, and then an entire epiphany afterward, and now they’re inextricable from one another.”
See the cover below. Memorial publishes this October, and is available for pre-order.