The book is dictated by an unknown narrator and follows Izzy Darlow, a mental hospital employee that volunteers his time in order to make amends for a robbery committed during his youth. It is there that he falls for the mute Katie, a patient at the hospital that had been subjected to extreme sexual abuse.
Kirkus Reviews wrote that Amnesia was "more concerned with emotional states than traditional characters, and more reminiscent of, say, Thomas's White Hotel than Hart's Damage.Michiko Kakutani in the New York Times observed: "Although this self-conscious quality never entirely lifts, one gradually comes to appreciate Mr. Cooper's copious gifts". James Polk, in a second New York Times review, called Amnesia "a dense, absorbing first novel (which) locates prominent features in the landscapes of mind and memory." While the Chicago Tribune hailed the book as "intricate", the South Florida Sun-Sentinel dismissed it as "forgettable".Publishers Weekly noted that it was "Published to extravagant praise in Canada (with comparisons to Nabokov, Genet, Calvino and Margaret Atwood)." The Boston Globe called Cooper "ambitious", and noted that he "takes us on a journey through the dark corridors of the psyche, introducing us to characters who change shape as easily as smoke rings."