Bookish Musings: When the Main Character Remembers, But No One Else Does


I’ve read multiple books, even played a game or two, in which the ending involves everyone forgetting a whole bunch of events, except for the main character. They still remember. Because of some sort of sci-fi/fantasy thing going on. And I really want to know what other people’s feelings are about this, because I don’t understand if this is supposed to be a happy ending or not.

I suppose there’s no single answer to that question. It depends on the author and the story.

But to me it seems terrible.

In some of these stories, the character meets someone and gets to know them and starts a relationship with them. And then poof! They’re not with that person anymore. That person doesn’t even know them. They have to start all over, realistically there’s no guarantee that it’ll happen again, and even if it does (or even if they already were close to the person), they now have all these memories with someone that that person doesn’t have, and they can never even bring them up because there’s no good way to explain where they came from.

In other stories, instead of romance, the characters go through some awful shit. But then it all gets reversed or whatever, except the main character still remembers and has all the trauma but no one to talk to about it. Because no one else involved remembers. And since we’re talking sci-fi/fantasy, whatever they went through was probably also so wild that they can’t even talk to a therapist. They’re just alone with their horrible memories.

Both scenarios sound just awful to me. Which doesn’t necessarily mean they make for a bad story or a bad ending. It can be thought-provoking. It can be emotional. It can be, funnily enough, memorable. The ending might even be happy in some ways, or at least the best case scenario for the character in their situation. But I have a hard time seeing these endings as truly happy and tend to see them as bittersweet at best or just sort of horrifying at worst.


Talk to me!

How do you feel about endings where the main character remembers something no one else does?


Your Thoughts


10 thoughts on “Bookish Musings: When the Main Character Remembers, But No One Else Does

I'd love if you'd share your thoughts, too!


Reading your comments makes me a very happy blogger!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Roberta R.

    Ah! I have a storyline in the InCryptid series by Seanan McGuire that goes like that. There’s this cryptid who was adopted by a branch of the family and has grown up regarded as a cousin by some of them, and is in love with one of her “cousins”, who reciprocates her feeling, except they keep tiptoeing around each other for reasons that I won’t get into because it’s complicated. Then one day the cryptid in question does some huge magic to save herself and her family, except it backfires, and now no one knows her as a member of it anymore, but as an alleged enemy instead (because, ordinarily, her species would be dangerous), and she has to rebuild trust and affection with all of them…but wait, it get worse. Because her beloved cousin’s mind accidentally gets wiped (blank slate), and the cryptid in question manages to “recreate” it via the memories that everyone else in the family has of him, except of course they’re borrowed memories, so the poor guy is like a shell full of stuff that he doesn’t exactly “feel” anymore. And I get it – as you said, it’s “thought-provoking, emotional and memorable”, and I would add “gutsy”, but it’s also sad as hell. So…I’m conflicted. On one hand I loved these storylines (also because McGuire knows how to spin a tale), but on the other…I wish they would never have been written.

    1. Kit (Metaphors and Moonlight)

      That sounds so sad! 🙁 I’ve never read it used quite like that. That one at least sounds like it is meant to be disturbing and sad though, and succeeded. Whereas I’ve read cutesy romances where the character fall in love and then the MC wakes up and it was all just a magical occurrence and the next day they run into the love interest who doesn’t know them at all, but they set up a date to get coffee, and it’s an implied happy ending that they’ll fall in love again.

  2. Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight

    Oh I could not agree with you more! I do not like these “endings”, not at all. They seem to cheapen the whole thing, more often than not. Every *so* often a variation of it might work for me, but it’s rare. Like maybe if a character desperately wanted a second chance, or something? I want to talk about a show that comes to mind but it would be spoilery, but let’s just say that this ending infuriated me. Like… why did we watch the thing then!? I don’t like erasing the whole history or memory of anything, because it just renders the whole thing pointless!

    1. Kit (Metaphors and Moonlight)

      Yeah, they can work if they’re clearly done for a reason and either aren’t meant to be happy or truly are the best option for the character. But sometimes it’s so unclear whether it’s supposed to be happy or not, and other reviewers seem to think it was happy? And sometimes it’s just, like, why? It wasn’t necessary, it didn’t add anything, you could’ve just made it all real or had the other MCs remember too.

  3. Aj @ Read All The Things!

    I’ve read a few books where the characters forget everything about their lives. It’s not my favorite trope. I think it would be super frustrating to live with a partner who has a completely different set of memories.

  4. Pingback: Monthly Minutes at Midnight: November 2023 ⋆ It Starts at Midnight

  5. Sam @ Spines in a Line

    I can definitely understand that. I read this book (can’t remember the title, it was too long ago) about three women who get the chance to relive some moment in their past, and once they’re back in the present they can choose to either keep the new past or the old one and also remember it or not. So some keep their old lives but with memories of their possible life. It was a really interesting premise but I don’t know what I would do in that situation, it feels like too many what ifs

  6. Tasya @ The Literary Huntress

    I haven’t read any books with this trope, but I do watch a lot of series involving time travel with this trope but at the beginning of the series rather at the end. I don’t know if I would hate it, but I think it’s such a sad ending if I ever read one, it sounds so heartbreaking and lonely 🙁