In search of Cambodia’s holy grail

lost memories cover

“Map of Lost Memories” is available from the library in hardcover and downloadable audio.

Jen McCormackI like a book that makes me feel like I’m being followed.

Set in 1925, Map of Lost Memories by Kim Fay is packed with intrigue. Irene Blum sets off on an expedition into the jungles of Cambodia in search of the “holy grail” of Cambodian art collectors, a set of copper scrolls inscribed with the history of the Khmer people that have been the source of rumor and speculation for decades.

Irene spends years working alongside her mentor at the Brooke Museum in Seattle, locating and acquiring pieces of cultural history from across the globe. But she lacks the sophistication and formal education to be a major force in the field and gets passed over for her dream job as curator of the Brooke.

Instead of taking this setback quietly, Irene sets out alone to the Far East to find the legendary scrolls, bring them back to the US, and create her legacy in the art world: a museum of the Khmer people with the long-lost copper scrolls as the foundation of the collection.

Of course it’s not that simple. Even the people she has enlisted to help her have their own plans for the scrolls that don’t include Irene or a flight over the Pacific Ocean.

Irene is naive and bold, qualities that she sees as an asset but that continually threaten her quest and leave the reader worrying if she’ll survive the next leg of her journey!

This is Fay’s first novel, and she has written a compelling book full of suspense. After listening to it for just an hour in the car I found myself looking over my shoulder in shops as if I, like Irene, were being tailed everywhere I went.

If you’ve already read this book and are looking for more exotic adventures like this one, please leave me a note in the comments or email me at

About Jen McCormack

Jen McCormack is the director of the Nashua Public Library. Previously she was director of the Tewksbury (Mass.) Public Library and assistant director and reference librarian at the Amesbury (Mass.) Public Library. She studied history at UNH and earned her master's in library and information science from Simmons College.

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