Ann Brashares released her second adult novel, My Name is Memory this June. It's an unusual love story with reincarnation, an enduring love, heartbreak and obsession.
The story of a love that lasts more than a lifetime.
Daniel has spent centuries falling in love with the same girl. Life after life, crossing continents and dynasties, he and Sophia have been drawn together -- and he remembers it all. Daniel has "the memory," the ability to recall past lives and recognize the souls that he's previously known. It is a gift and a curse. For all the times that he and Sophia have been drawn together throughout hisotry, they have also been torn painfully, fatally apart. A love always too short.
But just as Sophia (reborn as "Lucy") finally begins to awaken to the secret of their shared past, the mysterious force that has always wrenched them apart reappears. Ultimately, they must recognize what stands in the way of their love if they are ever to spend a lifetime together.
First and foremost, My Name is Memory is a powerful love story. Daniel is described as an old soul -- his soul has lived through countless reincarnations and he remembers each of his past lives. In the world that Ann Brashares creates, there are a handful of old souls who retain memories of their past lives. Everyone else lives their lives with their slates clean, with no clear memories of past experiences. Though Brashares suggests that the occasional sense of affinity that we have with people may have come from a friendship or a tie in a previous life. The few that retain memories of past lives can usually trace this ability or "long memory" to a deep trauma or a strong affinity of sorts. Of the old souls, Daniel stands out since his memory reaches back over 1,500 years to the time that he first met and fell in love with Sophia.
Daniel's memory comes from his love of Sophia, as if he wills himself to remember everything about her. His love and fate lead Daniel to retain these memories each time he is reborn. Somehow Daniel and Sophia are reborn within similar times. They encounter each other in different cultures and continents over 1,500 years. Daniel remembers his past lives starting from when he first met Sophie in 520 A.D. to each of his reincarnations. In all the different reincarnations, Daniel knows Sophia. But equal to his joy in finding her is his disappointment that Sophia never recognizes Daniel.
Daniel learns how to carry over skills and wealth from one life to another. He's skilled in medicine, in business, and in most trades. In each rebirth, Daniel prepares to meet Sophia and with each new encounter he is equally surprised and moved. He tries not to overwhelm her -- his love/obsession can surely frighten her away especially since she never seems to remember him. Daniel begins from scratch each time.
Sophia's latest reincarnation is Lucy, a high school senior with a powerful crush on her mysterious young classmate named Daniel. Daniel moved to Lucy's high school at the start of their junior year and though he caused a stir because of his good looks and athleticism, he stood apart. He seemed more mature, a little lost and deeply sad -- all of which drew Lucy's attention. When Daniel acted differently too and ignored invitations from the most popular girls and spent time with the social outcasts, Lucy imagined herself helping him navigate through high school. Though they've barely spoken over the two years, Lucy daydreams about Daniel and feels drawn to him. Lucy's voice and character come across clearly: a young girl, enthusiastic, engaging with the usual romantic hopes.
While Lucy is likable and draws you in to the story, it is Daniel that makes the book. Daniel is Memory -- and the plot revolves around his struggle to win Sophia.
Daniel and Sophia face another obstacle -- there lives another old soul who remembers both Daniel and Sophia clearly. He had been Sophia's husband in a previous life and is determined to punish Sophia and Daniel for what he interprets as their betrayal of him.
Daniel's love for Sophia borders on obsession and somehow the book reminded me of The English Patient. My Name Is Memory is a powerful love story and an engrossing read. Lucy and her high school reminded me a little of the Twilight series with Bella Swan and her obsession with Edward, but Lucy/Sophia is much more fun and likable than Bella. I recommend My Name Is Memory to someone looking for an unusual romance novel and an engrossing love story.
When I read the book, I loved it but had hoped for a continuation of the story. It was only when I was done that I learned that the story only begins with My Name is Memory, it's the first installment in a trilogy. So keep that in mind when you come to the ending!
ISBN-10: 1594487588 - Hardcover $25.95
Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover (June 1, 2010), 336 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher.
About the Author:
Ann Brashares is the author of the phenomenal 8-million copy selling series of young adult novels: The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, The Second Summer of Sisterhood, Girls in Pants, and Forever in Blue, and the New York Times bestselling adult novel The Last Summer (of You and Me).
Thank you so much to Lydia, Penguin and Riverhead Books for this review opportunity!