by Ann Brashares
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 (Product Description).
Oh my, where to begin. Brashares has taken an amazing idea and just doesn’t deliver. My Name is Memory is supposed to be a grand, sweeping, epic love story that reaches across a thousand years, but I didn’t ever find myself relating to the lovers in any meaningful way, nor did I consider their “soulful” bond convincing. Because it really isn’t. They don’t know each other, so how can they truly love each other?
Lucy doesn’t ever remember anything and Daniel is just plain nutty. He is consumed by a lustful infatuation that because it’s gone unrequited century after century, grows exponentially in severity (and ludicrousness). He’s a stalker essentially, having built up a centuries-old romance based solely upon a few modest interactions. Lucy/Sophia is all his soul can think about, to the point where Daniel never really lives any of his numerous lives. I just wanted to shake him!
I know sometimes in romances, it’s important to set up “an obstacle” to the lovers — a good, solid reason keeping them apart. The obstacles here are torturous!! You think it’s tough getting “the timing” right in a regular relationship? Also, Daniel’s reluctance to go to Lucy when he has the chance is maddening. His hesitation doesn’t make any sense!!! Nor does his fear and awkwardness — he’d rather watch (stalk!) her from afar than do anything sensible about it. As long as she’s on “his grid” he can breathe easily. You would think after a thousand years to get ready for this, he’d have a plan in place, something to try, rather than sitting back and trying nothing. Argh!! When he finally does make his move, it all happens so fast, and is over so suddenly, I was just left shaking my head in disbelief.
I’m giving the book two stars because while I was immensely disappointed, I did not hate it, and I can see where others who believe in soul mates might find the story enchanting. I was also taken with the idea of souls coming back over and over, and that your mother in one life could come back as your best friend in the next life. I did enjoy Brashares’ exploration of reincarnation, how some souls come back repeatedly, while others burn so bright they live just one life never to return.
Daniel’s burden is a heavy one –- it would be very difficult to live each life anew, if you could remember all the others that came before, and you’re fairly certain there will be more lives to follow. What makes this life so precious is that most of us feel it’s the only one we get, so we better make it count. In many ways, Daniel’s plight is reminiscent of vampires, who live to see centuries pass and are never really a part of the current times. They are “other”–monsters to some–and must live apart and without the connections that make us human. In essence, Daniel is living his life this way; he may die many, many times, but he lives his lives like an immortal – above and apart from the rest of us.
I have a feeling this book will be compared to The Time Traveler’s Wife. Let me tell you that it is nothing like it, and if you pick up My Name is Memory hoping for that, you will be painfully disappointed. Especially if you hate ambiguous / cliffhanger endings. Rating: ★★