Author: Ann Brashares
Release date: June 2010
Genre: Paranormal Romance, YA crossover,
Target audience: 14+ (contains sexual content)
Summary from Goodreads:
Daniel has spent centuries falling in love with the same girl. Life after life, crossing continents and dynasties, he and Sophia (despite her changing name and form) have been drawn together-and he remembers it all. Daniel has "the memory", the ability to recall past lives and recognize souls of those he's previously known. It is a gift and a curse. For all the times that he and Sophia have been drawn together throughout history, they have also been torn painfully, fatally, apart. A love always too short.
Interwoven through Sophia and Daniel's unfolding present day relationship are glimpses of their expansive history together. From 552 Asia Minor to 1918 England and 1972 Virginia, the two souls share a long and sometimes torturous path of seeking each other time and time again. But just when young Sophia (now "Lucy" in the present) finally begins to awaken to the secret of their shared past, to understand the true reason for the strength of their attraction, the mysterious force that has always torn them apart reappears. Ultimately, they must come to understand what stands in the way of their love if they are ever to spend a lifetime together.
My Name is Memory is a story that spans centuries and deals with themes that I find fascinating: redemption, guilt, life after death, the nature of the soul and the nuture of the spirit. On the face of it, this is a book which I should love and I desperately wanted to but sadly I couldn't get beyond a mild indifference for it.
The story of Daniel, the man who has lived many lives and retains his memories is an intriguing one. He remembers his families, his friends, his knowledge and skills but above all he remembers Sophia. He killed her in his very first life and he has carried the guilt in his memory ever since. She was not Sophia then but a girl in an African village. She was Sophia much later and I'm not going to give any more away here for fear of spoilers except to say that he loved her in the deepest way that one soul can love another. Daniel's very special memory is not his only ability. He can recognise souls from one life to another even though their physical embodiment changes with each new birth. I found this such an interesting idea. That one soul could be the same essence time and again and yet look so profoundly different after each rebirth. The concept of this book is magnificent. My indifference for the story was due to the way that it was told.
The narrative unfolds in two different ways. Daniel describes the story of his past lives through a first person narrative. Each of his chapters recounts some memory of who he is and how he longed to be with Sophia. These are then alternated with a third person narrative of his present life and meeting the current reincarnation of Sophia. I felt that Daniel's chapters were excessively detailed. They slowed the plot right down and I was often wondering if I should keep reading. What kept me reading was the mystery surrounding the relationship between the two. There is one chapter where Daniel talks about one of his lives where he kept pigeons and I was reading it thinking: I don't need to know this. Why did the author not cut this chapter out? What will this mean to the rest of the story? I obviously missed the point of the pigeon story completely.
There were other things that irritated me including the dialogue. However, the most frustrating part of the story for me was the ending. I really believed that if I read to the end it would all make sense and there would be an epic climax. Unfortunately, even the climax was littered with unneccesary detail and after the main event, the two main characters having yet another converstaion. I honestly couldn't believe it. The plot just did not unfold in a way that worked for me. I hasten to add that at the close of the book, I still did not have all my answers and I certainly would not read another one to find them out. I felt cheated! I had read this very slow and winding story only to find out that actually, I was going to have to do it again to get a level of resolution that I was happy with.
Overall, I am rather disappointed that I didn't connect with My Name is Memory. The idea was beautifully epic yet my dream of a moving and deep love story was never realised. I'm sure this book will find it's readership. The method and language often felt very adult to me as I was reading and so I wonder if YA is really the market for it. Read it if you like your stories slow like the erosion of our coastline.
Thanks to Hodder for sending me the book for review. Apparently I much prefer John Grisham to Ann Brashares. Who'd have thought?!