This week’s book is My Name is Memory by Ann Brashares. I really enjoy her writing. The book world is full of authors whose work tends to blur together for me, but Brashares always seems to be able to find a creative premise (she is the author of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, also) that combines reality as we know it with some element of the supernatural or unknown.
http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=Bibliograph07-20&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=1594487588&fc1=F3EDED&IS2=1<1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=040404&f=ifrI got this book as an ARC (advanced reader copy) before it was published. Publishers send ARCs to bookstores so they can take a look before they buy, and so booksellers can read them before they’re released. Since booksellers always got to take them home for free, I snagged as many as I could, even if they were books I would not have normally picked up if I’d had to pay money for them.
This book is a fantastic romance (both in the sense that it’s really good and the sense that it is full of fantasy and could never happen). Thankfully, it is not full of sex! I hate that erotica is classified as romance these days. Daniel is a soul who has lived for over a thousand years, in countless different bodies. Unlike most people, who only have the memory of one life, Daniel can remember every life he’s lived. The constant thread through all these lives has been Sophia, the woman/soul whom he has loved from a distance, but either time, age, or circumstance has kept them apart. Now, in the 21st century, they are both the same age and free, poised to finally be together. But there is another soul, a malevolent one, who hates Daniel, and will do anything to keep him and Sophia apart. On top of this, Sophia cannot remember ever living any other life, so Daniel must make her believe that he’s loved her since, like, 600 AD.
It sounds crazy, and it is. The Christian in me rebels against the entire premise a bit, because of our disdain for the belief in reincarnation. But I feel the same way about this novel as I feel about Harry Potter. It’s fantasy. It’s fiction. And therefore, I can enjoy it without being like Omg, everything I’ve ever believed about the world is wrong! Maybe my soul is gazillions of lives old! Once I moved past that, I was able to genuinely become completely engrossed in the novel.
The novel is told in a couple of different voices. There is an omniscient narrator that alternately follows “Lucy” (Sophia’s current incarnation) and Daniel. Daniel also tells stories about big events in his various past lives in the first person. His stories are my favorite part. It’s interesting to read about his progression through time, and all the historic events he witnessed first-hand. There’s so much mystery and tension in this book, due in part to this switching back and forth of narrators. One of the reasons I couldn’t put it down was because I was dying to know when Lucy would finally figure out who Daniel was, and go find him. I really couldn’t focus on anything else while I was reading this.
Daniel’s perspective on death is unusual. Because he’s died so many times and come back, he does not fear death. He knows what is on the other side of life. He talks about drowning, being stabbed, cholera, and other ways of dying as if they were just minor events (which to him, they are). Actually, I thought it added a small amount of comedy to an otherwise very serious novel.
Brashares did a good job creating characters as well. Lucy and Daniel (and the various incarnations of both of them) were great, as was Marnie. The only character who disappointed me was the villain. She introduces him about 1/3 of the way through, and though he seems at first to be a chillingly evil character, he disappoints at the end. The true villains of the novel seem instead to be time and circumstance, and human stubbornness. Also, let me warn you: this novel’s ending made me angry. Authors are getting into this habit now of leaving things open-ended, and allowing the reader to decide what happened to the characters. While this may seem unique to them, it is not. Little Bee literally ended in the exact same way. Please, authors. When you’ve written an awesome story like this one, just tell me what happens. I really really want to know, and you not telling me does not make me want to buy your subsequent novels.
Women, please read this book (unless you’re easily influenced by fiction about how a man should treat you, like Twilight fans). If you’re a guy and you want to read it, fine. But unless you’re unusually sentimental, you probably won’t like it.