Memory is a departure from the usual story-based novel, not only for Westlake, but for most writers. The central character, Paul Cole, has the kind of internalized perceptions found in the protagonists of Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment or Camus' The Stranger. Their world is defined by a logic which conflicts with the expectations of others. Cole is driven, not by circumstances, but by their refusal to fit together in a way that will allow him to re-establish his forgotten way of life.
This is a very interesting and ambitious mode of story-telling, because Westlake lets the reader see ahead of his hapless protagonist and sense the outcome of Paul Cole's groping attempts at regaining his memory. The theme of the book stands as a kind of metaphor for the accidental nature of life. Events appear to be cyclical, but they are spiral, the circles never quite overlap.
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